During lunch at work I sit outside and use social media to promote the event.
I tweet: I’m reading a tiny story aloud today at a car wash on MLK and Airport in Austin. Come say hi at 7pm :)
I don’t tell anyone I work with about the event, not even to make small talk in the copy room.
At home I practice reading aloud the story I plan on sharing at the event.
I delete words I don’t like, then I delete entire sentences I don’t like.
When it feels bare enough I put books in my messenger bag, say goodbye to our dog and cat, and walk to the bus stop.
On the bus the idling engine puts me to sleep.
I don’t salivate, which is surprising.
The ringtone on my phone sounds faraway, insistent.
I bounce back to reality.
I dig in my messenger bag’s side pocket.
“Hey,” I say. I say, “I’m on the bus, about to reach MLK.”
“Cool,” you say. You say, “I’m by Wheatsville.”
“Have you passed it yet?” I say.
“No,” you say.
“Can you get me some Guayaki?” I say.
“Okay,” you say.
We discuss a meeting place. We decide on 21st and Guadalupe, the same corner with the Daniel Johnston alien frog.
I get off the bus then cross Guadalupe.
I stand in front of the famous graffiti and take a picture with me in it.
I take this picture because it happens to be consistent with the story I’m about to read aloud at a car wash.
You call to say you’re by the CVS. I walk north along the line of traffic until I find you driving our Honda.
The Guayaki is cold. I drink it fast, bomb myself with caffeine and sugar and the magical powers of yerba mate.
“Thank you,” I say.
“I also bought this t-shirt,” you say, handing it to me.
It’s green and very soft. I want to smear my face in it. I want to see you in it.
I feel focused.
At a stoplight on MLK, heading east, you change your shirt.
A few minutes later we take a right into a car wash.
Alicia Fyne, the event organizer, is in her car in the far left bay, just like she said she would be.
There are people packed into her car.
You park off to the side, grab your Buddha’s Brew Kombucha, and enter the world.
We introduce ourselves to the people inside Alicia’s car.
They get out and, like that, SAD SAD SAD FEST in the far left bay of the car wash on the corner of MLK and Airport starts.
We meet Alicia Fyne, Andrew Hilbert, Joseph Green, Cheryl Couture, No Glykon.
There is beer. There are flasks of whiskey. In other bays at the car wash, people are washing their cars.
A friend shows up: David Nguyen.
Other people enter the far left bay, lean against the tiled walls, introduce themselves.
It’s fun. No one gives a shit.
We’re here to make something beautiful on our own terms, but I think that’s always been how beauty gets made.
Around 7pm Alicia corrals everyone to the area around her trunk.
She introduces the event.
Last month they read at a Taco Bell. This month a car wash. Next month, maybe, a cemetery.
I’m the first to read.
I stand up, set my messenger bag on Alicia’s trunk.
I may or may not thank Alicia for organizing this event, but I’m thankful.
I say something about Tiny TOE Press, show one of our handpressed paperbacks.
People seem to be listening.
“I’m going to read something called Cardboard,” I say.
Then you start recording.
I sit down on the curb next to David Nguyen. He offers me some whiskey from his flask.
I take a pull.
“Tasty,” I say. I say, “Thanks.”
“No problem,” says David. “It’s Canadian.”
Next to read is Cheryl Couture.
Cheryl sits down on the curb to give everyone a chance to recover from their laughter.
It takes awhile.
I put my hoodie on because it’s in the lower 50s.
It feels good to be laughing in the cold with other people.
Next to read is Andrew Hilbert of SlagDrop.
This event starts to feel like it’s all times happening at once.
Against my will, I think about the meaning of this event.
Taking something that’s done in private and, usually, consumed in private, i.e. writing and reading,
and bringing it to a car wash, where people come to clean their cars, not to write our read.
In search of meaning where there’s no meaning: a pitfall, a character flaw.
David Nguyen takes his flask out.
You drink some just to taste it, and I take another pull.
Next to read is No Glykon of Reality Hands.
I watch someone put their car in reverse then realign it into the bay.
Another person smacks their doormats against the concrete.
Soapy mist blows out of the farthest bay.
To hold a reading where you least expect it.
To hold a reading where it doesn’t fit in.
Is this a tribute to freedom? to doing what you want?
Again: searching for meaning where there’s no meaning.
Next to read is Joseph Green.
Behind me I hear people ordering from Popeye’s.
Someone driving by wonders what’s happening at the car wash.
It’s a non-exclusive event.
Come listen if you want.
You accidentally pause the recording then start it back up again.
And last to read is Alicia Fyne of wait…what?,
which is actually the name of this monthly reading series, not SAD SAD SAD FEST.
I look to my right, then to my left.
I look behind me.
People still seem to be listening.
The spell of words takes awhile to wear off.
Then, it does, and that’s it.
People huddle to socialize, congratulate, followed by minor dispersal.
We say thank you, goodbye, thank you,
and plan on seeing most of them Saturday night at SlagDrop’s release party.
Inside our Honda, it’s quiet until we start talking.