Another not so true or fictional ice tale
When she was thirteen, Nevada's parents left her in a hotel room Lodwar, Kenya, and told her to meet them in Katmandu within a year. If she somehow missed them, they'd leave notification at the Temple as to their whereabouts.
It was up to her to cross the Great Rift Valley, to get into Nairobi to catch Georg before he took his plane back to North America. If she wanted, she could follow the valley to Lake Victoria and there catch a ferry into Tanzania and perhaps make it to Dar es Salaam where she could look up Madame Yatheri who most certainly could get her onto a freighter heading further east.
This was a great opportunity they were giving her, they said. Survival was now in her hands. The world was hers.
They handed her one hundred American dollars, her passport, and a map of eastern Kenya. Then they got into a waiting Land Rover and sped off.
Until that point in her life, Nevada had never been further from her home in Chicago than Elkhart, Indiana.
She never made it to Nepal. She arrived at her home eight years later. Her parents made her coffee. Had she come home years earlier, she would have killed them. But her experiences had shaped her and she realized there was no value in expressing her anger that way. She stayed long enough to let them know she had survived.
Then she used the knowledge of computerized banking she had obtained working with hackers in Switzerland to withdraw all the funds from her father's retirement accounts, launder it through several shell accounts, and transfer it to a charity. She went back to her parent's home to watch as their cars were repossessed. Stood across the street as the marshals evicted them from the house that had been her home for seventeen years.
She welcomed them to her life. Told them it was a great opportunity they had in front of them. Survival was in their own hands. Then she went north to Canada.
Life expectancy of a Kenyan female at birth is 45.1 years. Life expectancy of an American female at birth is 80.36 years.
The thing about an idea is having it first. The toaster. The internet. High-speed rail. The Pet Rock. Baby on Board signs. Do it first, and it's yours. If you're not first with an idea, it may as well be something you read spray painted on a bridge stanchion.
The thing about being Nevada was her enigma--to be part of the world of everyone by conforming ever so slightly, leaving much to the imagination. She tried very hard not to explain herself to anyone. When asked about her past, she started with her perfectly boring childhood in Chicago. She had derived tales of her high-school years by reading novels and watching daytime television. College came from movies, articles in The Princeton Review, and long conversations with people who had been to a variety of different schools.
She decided she had been to Cornell. She decided she'd majored in geology.
The thing about being Nevada was that everything that happened to her had happened to her, and no one else. It could be contained and parceled out, but it was a ponderous weight to live beneath. There seemed no way to live successfully in the land of everyone unless she could find a way to shed herself.
Instead of telling people about living with mercenaries in Chad, herding camels in Morocco, or dodging Tunisian drug runners in Marseilles, she pretended to be Dick Van Patten's television daughter.
And she would say it was Dick Van Patten's television daughter who became the wife of an ugly, abusive, dullard who loved her once, and then took out his self-hatred upon her. She knew that every time he looked at her he saw what he could not be. She was beautiful. She was everything brave and pure about a person, and all he had were hard days wielding a shovel at the roadside, and then drinking himself dizzy in the tavern on Friday. In the beginning, she thought she could make him better. Hadn't she crossed Africa on foot at the age of puberty? Hadn't she been kidnapped and beaten by white-slavers on the Ivory Coast? If a person can survive that, a person can escape a road working job, especially with help.
There was even love, at the beginning. But that passed and he began to hit her. It made him angry his blows had nearly no effect. She would not scream or cry or even yelp when he struck. In the years of her travels she'd learned a variety of self-defense techniques. Chinese monks taught her martial arts. The Russian police taught her riot tactics. The British military taught her to use a truncheon in close quarters. A cowboy in Laramie taught her how to disarm an attacker with a short piece of rope.
She didn't use any of it on her husband as he hefted heavier and heavier weapons to hurt her. He didn't know who she was and she could not disabuse herself of the notion it was worth saving him.
--right up until he told her, "just wait till I get home," and she saw the receipt from the sporting goods store.
The Buddhist monks in Tibet taught her the thing about an idea. About being first with it.
It was certain she could outthink her drunken husband.
On that day, when she clocked out of her job at the Wal-Mart in Kanata, she got on her bicycle and began to ride west toward her home. But when she got there she wondered what would happen if she kept going.
Soon she was in Detroit. Then in Chicago, she took a left down to St. Louis. When she got to Denver, the Rocky Mountains seemed formidable and she was too tired to attempt the climb. So she stopped for a few days. And on one of those days she was eating a slice of pizza al fresco outside a small restaurant in a strip mall and she heard an ad from a radio in a passing car. The ad said, "You've heard of 'Survivor'? Well how about real survival? You can't be voted off this island..."
It was a commercial for work in Antarctica with Raytheon Polar Services. It seemed, at that moment, exactly what her life had been leading up to.
Some of Nevada's inventions are classified by the U.S. Army, so you can't know about them. Lots aren't, and they can give you an idea of the way she thinks.
Once she was in the bush in Mali, and the plane that was coming to get her couldn't find a place to land in the dark. She kept telling the pilot on the radio, but he couldn't see the clearing.
In their camp they had a lot of old metal bowls in the mess. Some were shiny when they were cleaned. An Exxon oil research team had left a crate of cyalume sticks that she and the tribes people used occasionally during festivals.
Nevada took a shiny bowl and the .45 caliber pistol from Dwambi's belt and shot a hole as close to the center of bowl as she could. Then she cracked open a light stick and shoved it into the bowl. The pilot could see it from the air. Dwambi took five more bowls, pierced the bottoms with a breaker bar (he didn't want to waste any more bullets) and then shoved in the light sticks and placed them along the makeshift landing strip.
The pilot was able to land, pick them up, and take off again before the Rwandan rebels attacked.
Once Nevada was leading a group of tourists on a hike to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro and one of the group had brought a laser pointer. Remembering her experience with the chemical runway lights, she borrowed the pointer and a shiny food bowl and signaled a guide with another group a day's hike behind them.
The man with the pointer liked Nevada because she was stunningly beautiful in her shorts and expedition-weight sports bra. He was an engineer who showed her an infrared laser pointer he was experimenting with. It was a wavelength that penetrated airborne water vapor, which Nevada understood meant clouds.
She asked him what the beam divergence was, and he told her.
That gave her an idea to use the laser to send messages by bouncing a modulated beam off of satellites in low earth orbit.
She couldn't tell me much more about that invention, as the Marines were experimenting with a version in Iraq, and the results were still classified. But she told me it involved the infrared laser, Bessel's functions, and a tiny shiny bowl the size of half a tennis ball.
When Nevada was in Mallorca she was seduced by a good looking Spaniard who took her back to his apartment, undressed her, and retired to the toilet in preparation for the evening. Laying back into the satin covered pillow, she turned and saw the photograph of his wife and kids on the nightstand. She got out of the bed. The wife's clothes were in the closet. There was a painting of her and the children on the wall in the living room. She realized the man was married and his family was not home at that moment.
She turned on a small video recorder she kept in her backpack, and recorded herself having sex with the man. A month later she mailed the tape to the address.
I heard this story told in the form of an epic poem. It was an odyssey written in Spanish. Nevada read it first in Spanish, so I could hear the rhyming, and then in English, so I could understand what happened.
I asked her if the man was a Siren or a Cyclops, and she pretended she didn't hear me.
When Nevada told me about her dim-witted, violent husband, we were sitting in the hut at lake Hoare at midday. She was at the part where he had discovered she'd gone to Antarctica when helicopter thirty-six hotel, a big Bell 212 Jet Ranger, dropped the contents of a sling load onto the surface of the frozen lake. Someone had set up the load wrong, and Nevada knew it was the dingbat grad student who couldn't be told anything.
I helped her spend most of the afternoon picking up Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies, oatmeal, and rolls of toilet paper off of one of the most environmentally sensitive tracts of acreage on the face of the earth.
When we were finished we had dinner. When dinner was over, Nevada played a couple games of cribbage with Ray. After Ray retired to bed, Nevada continued her story, beginning as if the sentence fragment she'd uttered before the interruption ten hours earlier was still hanging in the air needing completion. And from that half sentence forward, I learned her husband had been killed at the Canadian/U.S. border near Vancouver.
The U.S. Border Patrol had his picture, and his passport triggered a number of alarms. They tried to arrest him under an outstanding warrant for gun smuggling. They found an AR-15 rifle in his luggage. When he ran, they shot him.
In his wallet they found the letter he had planned to leave after the murder/suicide. They discovered the rifle had been modified to fire full auto. Nevada knew they'd find it because she knew the guy who filed the sear pin and he was an undercover agent for the RCMP.
I asked her if the charges against him were valid, the ones in the border patrol computers.
She assured me they would have been, had he lived.
I asked her if she knew what happened to her parents. Why they would have dropped her off, a mere child in a strange third-world country.
She said her father got into some bad deals. In the end, they got what they wanted. She'd washed herself clean of them, changing even her name.
Then she wanted to know if it was true what they were saying--that I had an ice wife back in town, what I thought I was getting out of a relationship like that, as I was a married man with grown children.
She smiled when I identified the source of the rumor and I asked her if she knew my social security number. She answered by saying that as an American male I could be expected to live 75.5 years, according to the CIA. That the one thing I could do to prolong my life and increase my chances of making it to 75 was to eat less. It was that simple. They'd proven it with experiments on animals. Eat less, live longer.
How ironic that eating less should turn out to be the fountain of youth--how ironic with all the children she'd seen dying of starvation in Somalia, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Mali, and Ivory Coast, where the average life expectancy hovered somewhere around 41 years.
The last time I saw Nevada I asked her what she planned to do. Where did the story end? When Kirk Douglas returned to Greece, he shot an arrow through a couple hundred axes, killed the suitors, and reclaimed his wife. What did she plan?
She smiled and was beautiful.
--was it true, then? The stories? Maybe she was really Dick Van Patten's daughter with the most incredible mind on the entire continent.
Nevada hugged me, kissed me on the lips, and told me she'd see me again.
I try not to be scared by that.