Sim Sala Bim by Gina Williams
“‘Is this all there is?’
The question caught me off guard for a split second, sucked a little bit of air from my gut…”
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“Skimming the wood floor like a bi-plane over the November fields,
might wonder where the breeze went, and all the chorus and lilt of the leaves…”
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I open the car door, and it is raining…”
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Everything She Can’t See by Liz Ahl
“The little girl is full of questions
and asks them all, one after another…”
Waterfront Metro Station by Elizabeth Acevedo
“through the speakers
the conductor’s voice scratched
a stop away from mine…”
“Is this all there is?”
The question caught me off guard for a split second, sucked a little bit of air from my gut like a sideways hammer strike on the corner of the thumb.
“What? What did you say?”
“Is there any more?”
“Oh, the sausages. No, I’m sorry. They’re all gone. I should have thrown a couple extra on the grill.”
“They’re just so good. I could eat and eat. You are the queen of barbecue.”
Trevor licked honey mustard from his fingers as he popped the last chunk of bratwurst and bun into his mouth. He always licks down. The tongue, I think every time I see him do it, should naturally lick up. Shouldn’t it?
“Better than fair sausages.”
Trevor’s face glowed pink in the evening light, his faded blue t-shirt tinged purple. He pushed a piece of watermelon into his mouth, lapping at the juiciness with that downward lick again.
“Look at the clouds. Such gorgeous light.” Clouds streaked across the evening sky blushing neon. I could smell the lavender blooming in the garden. “The clouds look like cotton candy horses. See their hooves and their manes? See their green eyes? Maybe they’re racing to the moon.”
Trevor scooted his patio chair back, bumping the red geranium he’d potted that morning, sending red petals drifting to the bricks. He scooted forward again and tilted his head upward.
“The air is just right,” he said. “I love it when it is skin temperature and you can’t detect anything at all. No heat. No chill. I don’t see the horses, but the clouds are pretty.”
“We should go to the fair next week.” Trevor sipped at his wine. “I’ll buy you cotton candy and we’ll hold hands on the Ferris wheel.”
He leaned in and kissed me on the apple of my cheek. A tiny little peck. It tingled where he pecked and I wanted to scratch at it. When he looked away I impulsively wiped the clingy itch from my face with my fingertips.
Trevor looked at me, his brown eyes unblinking but squeezed into a question mark. His clean-shaven face shone orange as the sun burned into the horizon.
“Can we watch the bull riding competition and have strawberry shakes and onion rings?”
“It’s a date.”
In the kitchen, Trevor handed me clean dishes from the dishwasher as I stacked them in the cupboards.
“If you’re still hungry there is dessert. I made your favorite cookies.”
What I don’t tell him is that I didn’t really make them for him. I made them because I saw the recipe within the lyrics of one of my favorite rock songs. “Die Eier Von Satan” – “Satan’s Balls” in German. I felt a devious sort of delight when I realized that the recipes are almost identical. But my mother-in-law calls hers “Angel Kisses.” I left out the one critical ingredient that is not on the butter-stained recipe card written in Mom’s fine script: “One Knife-tip Turkish Hash.” Otherwise, it’s the same damn recipe. I threw in a dash of rum and said the magic words from the lyrics—in honor of rebellion—or perhaps in hopes of it. “Sim sala bim bamba sala do saladim.” And I was stark naked when I baked them. Rum and nudity is a suitable substitute for a knife-tip of Turkish hash, isn’t it? Of course not, but still.
Trevor pulled his hands from the sink. He moved close and gently pushed a piece of hair from my brow. He cupped my face in his thick damp hand.
“I love you.”
“I love you too, Trevor.”
The words hung a little lost in the soft air, our voices too flat for what we were saying.
He kissed my neck and gently rubbed my earlobe, knowing that his fingers there are soothing to me. He knows it. With all his heart. Forever. For at least eight years he has known it. What he doesn’t know and what I cannot bear to tell him is that I don’t want to be soothed. What I can’t tell him is that sometimes people want more….want things now they didn’t want then….want things that angels and mothers aren’t allowed to speak of.
I leaned into Trevor’s warm chest, his heart pulsing softly against my face. The beating felt agonizingly like butterfly wings. Too delicate, too much fluttering for a strong, bloody muscle.
Of course I knew what I couldn’t say. It could break him, but why? Why do I treat him like a boy? Am I really afraid the steel blade of my thoughts might cut him?
The next weekend we made the hour drive to the county fairgrounds. The late summer afternoon burned hot and gritty. Trevor dressed for our date in his standard outfit of a blue or black t-shirt and no-brand jeans. I put up my long dark hair up in a casual twist and wore an easy cotton halter and denim cutoffs.
After touring the livestock barns and watching cowboys go for the gusto in the bull riding competition, we bought a greasy bag of onion rings and lined up at the Dairy Women’s booth for fresh strawberry shakes.
“Enjoy, lovers!” A thick, pink-faced woman in denim overalls with a shrub of orange frizzy hair handed our shakes to Trevor. “A delicious creamy treat for a couple of real sweethearts,” she bellowed, her outstretched arms pushing her breasts into a freckly smile of cleavage as she bent over the counter.
By the time we headed for the Ferris wheel the sun had begun to set, the air cooling, the grit settling out. The midway spun in tight circles of multicolored lights and loud, pounding music.
The Zipper caught my eye right away. I watched it spin from the far end of the midway until we got next to it and it rose in front of us like a monument. The carny working the Zipper wore a camo tank and ripped vintage Levis. His eyes flashed green and dangerous in the fading light. He was tough looking but glammed up with spiked blonde hair, eyeliner, and sparkle lip gloss. When he slammed the cages of The Zipper, purple and gold wings tatted across his chest flapped in want of flight. Glam carny’s hands were fine-boned, his slender fingers dipped in thick silver rings. His nails were painted black and decorated with small white star stickers. A skull and crossbones belt buckle hooked by braided black leather scowled at his scrawny waist.
As we walked past I hesitated, pulling ever so slightly on Trevor’s arm, pointing up at the ride, a delightful roaring dervish, a spasm of light and screams.
“The Zipper,” I said. “That’s a wild one!”
Glam carny winked and shifted his weight, a jewel in one eye socket of the skull buckle flashing at me. I wanted to wish on that winking buckle as if it was the first star. I wanted to say the magic words. I wanted to kiss glam carny full on the lips and feel his silvered fingers press into the small of my back. “Sim sala bim bamba sala do saladim.”
A group of loud teenagers pushed past, moving between us and glam carny before I could carry out my wish. I bled sweat from my belly button as my heart swung screaming around in my chest like a miniature Zipper ride.
“Oh my God, that thing is insane,” Trevor said, pulling me towards the Ferris wheel. “Quick, move away. We’ll get puked on for sure standing here.”
When I looked behind me, glam carny was busy at his controls, his back turned, his pale neck glowing purple, his blond spikes electric fire red.
The Ferris wheel moved too slowly. I inhaled the summery fair smells of boiled corn and diesel and curly fries as we rotated. I looked around the midway as the wheel circled backwards to its highest point, then forwards, and around again in an easy, predictable pattern. I wanted the Hammer. I wanted to feel g-forces pulling at my face. I wanted the Octopus. I wanted wind, not breeze. I was jealous of the screamers on the Zipper. I wanted to see glam carny wink again. I wanted to make my wish on his skull.
Trevor pinched rainbow swirls of cotton candy and held them out for me while I took the spun sugar from his fingers with the tip of my tongue. My hand sweat into his in the humid night air and I pulled it away periodically, waving it in the air to dry. But I always put it back.
I wanted to leap out of the red cushioned Ferris wheel bucket and run to the Zipper. I wanted glam carny to curl his lip and snarl at me to keep my arms inside at all times. I wanted him to tug at the dirty brown strap and pull it across my lap, clapping the buckle hard. Too hard. So hard that it would bruise my thigh. I wanted him to glare at me through his eyeliner and sneer as he slammed the thick iron cage shut. I wanted to see the rage in his tat up close and watch his skull eye flash as he pressed the red go button with his starry night fingernail, sending me free-falling into my own screams.
I turned and slapped Trevor on the ass. “I’m going. You can come or not.” He just stood there, grimacing as I blew him a kiss and stomped defiantly towards the Zipper. He didn’t follow. I stood in line with the kids and felt weak in the middle. I twisted the gold band around on my finger as Trevor stood nervously by the strong man booth as young boys and rough-looking country types did their best to win the big prize. Finally, it was time. I yelled across the midway, “Come on Trev, it will be fun!” He just stood there, his head cocked to one side like a bird, listening to every other voice but mine.
I settled in the ripped vinyl seat of the Zipper, waiting for glam carny to bolt me in. He leaned in close and pulled the dirty strap across my thighs. His rough hand grazed my wrist. He smelled like cigarettes and a hangover. I shivered beneath the spinning lights. “Hang on tight, babe,” glam carny growled. “I can see the need for speed in your sad, pretty eyes. If you don’t fall out, you’ll be back for more.”
Trevor was pissed the rest of the night. He didn’t appreciated being abandoned for the Zipper. But I couldn’t bring myself to apologize. It was fun. I didn’t fall out. And I would be back for more.
Back home after the fair I showered the grit from my skin. The cool cotton sheets felt good. Trevor turned on his side, silently. I listened to his breathing slow.
My voice floated into the dark. Barely a whisper.
“Did you see them?”
There was a long pause before he muttered back, “See what?”
“From the top of the Ferris wheel you could see the cotton candy horses. Remember? On the patio. The cloud horses. Racing to the moon. Maybe tonight they are on their way back to earth.”
But Trevor didn’t hear me. He’d fallen asleep. Tomorrow I’d tell him. Tomorrow I’d pour it out. Tomorrow I would treat him like a strong man….a man who could defend himself against the steel blade of my thoughts.
I felt Trevor drifting farther and farther away in slow circles. I closed my eyes and leapt heavenward, straddling the back of a cloud horse. The fastest one. The one with the orange and purple mane, his wild eyes flashing green and dangerous.