I’m sure I’d make a fabulous anything more or less... Roller derby queen, Magician, chef, secretary, senator, professor of law, truck driver, limo driver, hedge fund manager (whatever the hell that is), lemon picker, bicycle mechanic, commercial producer, sign creator, sign holder, actress, waitress, psychologist, agent of some variety, inventor of flavors, film director, kindergarten teacher, gardener, farmer, seamstress, plow-woman, forger, professional soccer player, amateur harpist, vegas dealer, reno dealer, accountant, salsa instructor, pilot, sheep skinner, designer of boots, translator of languages that I’d be endlessly willing to learn...I work. Don’t get me wrong. I work everyday. I smooth the surface of ice, which, for those who don’t know is water with all its molecules slowed way down. I make its surface smooth by driving over it in a giant machine. I drive a zamboni across the patterns made by circling blades and clear the slate. Everything is icy eventually, when it slows down enough. I cross out the lines made by the meantime, the incidentals of our largely circular motions.
“Carey!” yelled my boss, who everyone called Silver on account of his hair, over the loud sound of the engine. Everyone called me Carey instead of Carolina. I spelled it like a boy would because I don’t like the look of two consecutive r’s.
I cut the engine.
“Ever been bit by a kangaroo?”
I started the engine again. He liked to interrupt my work with needless questions, generally related to which animals I had or had not been bitten by. I once, after no few beers, told my coworkers a story about being bitten by a lama. They all thought I was talking about an animal, a llama, which is spelled with a double l, a fact that unfortunately is indistinguishable through verbal language. Truth be told I was bitten by a person lama, like the dalai, though not specifically him. I didn’t correct their misapprehension.
What happened was, I was walking down the road in my little town of Rolling Meadows. I was walking to work, because I don’t drive. I like to walk long distances. I like the feel of my feet on concrete and the thick gray smell of the Chicagoland air. I like birds. There are crows everywhere here. They say crows can talk, which seems obvious, but I’ve never heard one speak English. They have their own squawky language. So, I told them the story much in the way I’ve been telling you, and it is about here that they interrupted me. And by the way, no, I have not been bitten by a crow.
“Jesus H, Carey, get to the point!” My boss, Silver, he doesn’t like meanderings, which strikes me as odd for someone who owns an ice skating rink, or lives on a planet for that matter. When he’s frustrated, which he was just then, his eyes flutter like a butterfly’s wings. “No one cares about your frigg’n walk to work.”
So I skipped the part about the way the wind sounded and the magenta sheen on the fresh little oil slick and the way the texture of the leaves in the park looked like an alligator’s skin in the distance. Did you know they make boots out of Alligator’s skin? That strikes me as odd, but I suppose if people do it, there must be a reason, no?
“So where did the llama come from?”
“This ain’t the Andes, Carey.” His eyes were extra fluttery. “There aren’t just llama’s walking down the road.”
“There was at least one lama walking down that road that day.”
“And it bit you?”
“He bit me.”
“How do you know it was a he?”
“I could just tell.” I thought it was strange that he would wonder how I would know the difference between a man and a woman. This was before I was aware of the single and double L dilemma. “He looked me in the eye. His jaw quivered. He took my hand, and he bit.”
Ever since that day, they always ask me:
“Hey, Carey, ever been bit by a Rhino?”
I haven’t, so, I shake my head and start the engine so that I can continue driving around erasing the marks that people have made in the ice.
Truth told, the only animal that’s ever bitten me was a human one, but I like the guessing game, so I don’t end it. I’ve never even been stung by a bee. I remember a friend was once, though. This was in college. Before the accident. He, Sasa, was a boyfriend I guess you could say. We liked to kiss, and to lay in cool grass wrapped in each other’s warm sticky arms. And we liked to talk. He told me that if you could keep your mind completely still, if you could freeze your thoughts, that you could control everything.
We were laying in the grass when he told me that. He said, “Carey, I think if you can slow it all the way down, smooth the zipping and zooming into a dull buzz, you could do just about anything.”
“What zipping and zooming?” I asked.
“What are you thinking right now. Quick, tell me without thinking.”
“To tell you what I’m thinking without thinking.”
“I’m thinking that I’m wrapped in the arms of a complete freak.”
He giggled in that way that made his eyes shimmer like gum wrappers.
“And I’m thinking I like it.”
He closed his eyes and sat up real straight. “Watch.”
I watched him sit there, still, breathing. His stillness made me calm. A little bee buzzed around his nose, but he didn’t move. I was nervous as it landed, but still, he didn’t move. I saw the bee flex its Charlie Brown sweater abdomen and push the little needle point that extended from its southern extremity into the bridge of his nose. He winced, but didn’t move. He wanted to be a teacher. I think he would have been a good one. I was going to be a baker. We were going to buy a house. I would wake up early and kneed dough, fire up ovens, drink coffee and smell wholesome things as they changed from sticky globs to chewy loaves. He would come home after class and we would walk around the city. We’d spend summers near water that was the perfect temperature. Brisk enough to wake you up in the morning, but warm enough to bath in for long stretches. We’d sit together and be as quiet as we could, so as not to be heard by anyone or anything that might want to stop us.
We’d hold hands a lot. Sasa worried sometimes it might be too much. “You shouldn’t be defined by things that are external to you,” he’d say.
“I’m not a thing,” I’d say.
He squeezed me around the waist and whispered, “Then what are you?”
I wasn’t sure.
I was driving over the ice after a grade school hockey match.“Hey, Carey!” I stopped the engine. “Ever been bit by an antelope?”
I couldn’t picture an antelope. I started the engine.
I could be a surgeon, or a painter. I have steady hands. I could be a picture framer, or a basket weaver. I could be a barista. I love the smell of coffee and the people who spend their time basking in its smell. I could be an upholsterer of classic furniture. I love the rounded wooden feet and nubby gold rows of granny couches. I could be an astronaut. I love quiet places. I could be a carpenter. I like the texture of wood shavings. I could pick garlic. I could make wallpaper. I could be a pirate. I could be a priestess. I could plant things in the ground that would grow.No one realized how strong the river’s current was, or else we would have told him not to swim. I would have told him not to swim. If only he could have slowed down his mind enough to control that fast water.
“Hey, Carey!” I stopped the engine. “Ever been bitten by a sea lion?”
“Hey, Carey!” I stopped the engine. “Ever been bitten by a sea lion?”