Make It Sweet - Kristen Callihan
I was five years old when I told my parents I wanted to fly. My parents, I’d come to learn, would do anything within reason to make me happy. They took my plea at face value and arranged for us to go on a small plane ride.
“Well,” my dad asked me as we sat in the back seat of that loud vibrating plane. “How does it feel to fly?”
It was nice and all, but I was just sitting there. The plane was flying, not me. Perplexed, they let the matter drop. But I didn’t. I yearned to fly. Deep within my bones, I needed it, though I couldn’t say exactly why. Problem was I didn’t know how to achieve that goal.
Two years later, my dad signed me up for hockey lessons on a whim. I laced on a pair of skates and learned. I got stronger, better, faster.
That was when I figured it out. It wasn’t in the air that I’d be able to fly. It was on the ice.
I loved the ice. To me, the ice was a mistress: cruel, cold, beautiful, brutal, essential. I knew her intimately—her crisp scent, her relentless chill, the various sounds she made, the smooth support she provided as I twisted and glided over her body.
I loved her from the first skate. She set me free, gave me purpose.
When I was on the ice, I was flying. Not that floating, disconnected flying, but speed so slick and fast you were no longer flesh and bone but something else: a god.
I loved flying over ice so much I might have taken a different path, become a speed skater, maybe. And sometimes, on off days, I’d go out there and do just that—skate faster and faster around the ice.
But simply skating didn’t provide the challenge I needed. Hockey did that.
God, I loved hockey. Every damn thing about it. The clap of my stick against the ice, the resonance of connecting with the puck. The game spoke to me, whispering in my ear even when I was asleep—my body humming, as though I was still on the ice.
I saw the patterns, the plays. I made them happen, coaxed them out. If skating was flying, good hockey was a dance. I had five dance partners. When we all worked together? It was fucking poetry. A true thing of beauty.
There was nothing like taking the puck down the ice, working your way through traffic, and then, with a little flick, sending the biscuit sailing right into the basket. Instant hard-on. Every. Time.
Hockey defined me. Center. Captain. Two-time Stanley Cup winner—the first time as one of the youngest team captains to have his name engraved on that big beautiful monstrosity of a cup. Winner of the Calder, the Art Ross . . . I could go on.
The point being hockey was my life.
And life was damn good. My team was a well-oiled machine, not a chiseler or plug among us to drag everyone down. We were in the playoffs, making another run for the cup. It was ours to win.
The guys knew it. There was something in the air—a crackle of electricity that tickled the skin, got in the joints, and made them twitchy. We’d felt this way before. And we’d won.
Brommy was particularly jovial as we put on our gear. His big hand clamped down on my head and mussed my hair vigorously. “Got a nice head of lettuce growing there, Ozzy. You need some dressing for that?”
In the early days, everyone had called me Ozzy in reference to my last name, Osmond. Then it was shortened to Oz—as in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. As in I got possession of the puck, and magic happened.
I ignored the white lights that flickered before my eyes and the way Brommy’s rough treatment of my head made the room swirl—momentarily—and slapped his head in return. “Not all of us style our flow, Goldilocks. But then, you need all the beauty help you can get.”
A couple of the guys snorted in good humor. Brommy grinned wide, displaying his grille and the lack of his right lateral incisor. If I’d had a tooth knocked out, I would have had the surgery and gotten that shit fixed. But Brommy liked showing it off. The massive left guard thought it made him look more intimidating.
He also loved to tell women that he’d caught a biscuit in his bracket. The bad idiom made him laugh every time. Women fell for his goofball act, so I wasn’t going