One summer, in what's now called the Oregon Zoo—
back in the mid-nineties, way back, when a chain
of metal clamped my teeth, before I knew
what to do with my wild and dark mane,
long before I grew comfortable lining my eyelids—
I donned my ZooTeen volunteer t-shirt and worked
at the Carmen Sandiego scavenger hunt stations, where kids
solved puzzles and earned stamps. Her henchmen lurked
at various sites, actors glimpsed near the hippos
or giraffes, and once in a while, Carmen herself above
the old elephant exhibit in lipstick-red clothes
and raven hair, an elusive embodiment of
Latina moxie and wiles.    I volunteered
at the entry station, instructing young gumshoes
in the rules of the game. At break time, I disappeared
for lunch on a bench near the goats, watching the zoo's
detectives disperse. Two girls approached my bench
and asked, in nervy unison, "Are you Carmen
Sandiego?"
                    "No."
                              Then, I pictured myself in a trench
and fedora. Vermilion. What would be the harm in
saying "yes"?    But the sleuths had already returned
to their bold quest for the dashing mastermind thief.
Imagine that red coat belted, collar upturned.
But I get to hide in plain sight.    What a relief.