Sk8er Girl

Lee on Wheels

I was thirteen the last time I went roller skating. It was the summer before high school. My self-esteem was so low that I forced my parents to sign me up for summer school gym, so that I wouldn’t be forced to get undressed and shower in front of other girls like we were supposed to do in middle school. (I never showered; I just washed my hair in the sink. They ribbed me enough about that, I assure you.) School wasn’t the hard part; my parents often enrolled me in summer classes in lieu of camp, and I was happier for it. The hard part was Boot Camp. One credit’s worth of gym taken all at once boils down to four hours a day, five days a week, for six weeks. In the summer. In the South Carolina summer. I might have benefitted more from a trip to the psychologist. 

We all had blisters, we all smelled like Ben-Gay, and we all hobbled like arthritic grannies when we weren’t being chased around the track or dodging the volleyball/softball/dodgeball, or lifting weights. (I actually liked lifting weights, but I still couldn’t do a pull-up to save my life. Still can’t.) One of our grand field trips was to the skating rink. We were all so excited to be out of the heat–we looked forward to it for weeks. The fateful day finally arrived…but where was the bus? Oh, no, Grasshopper. Here in summer school PE, we *walk* to the skating rink. 

Some kids were so tired by the time we arrived, they barely skated at all. Me? I loved skating. The music, the wind in my hair, the wooden rink flying beneath me… I had loved ice skating in Vermont, and this was the closest I could get to it. I could skate for hours. And I did. And then we walked back. Those were the worst blisters I’ve ever had in my whole life. I remember it like it was yesterday. 

But it wasn’t yesterday; it was nineteen years ago. Still, I can see that chubby girl flying around the rink, ponytail streaming behind her, lost in her dreams and the music, and wishing that someday she’d have someone to slow skate with. (Things haven’t changed much.) And they’re still there too: that willowy girl who floats effortlessly across the floor, the guy who dances like he was born on wheels, the younger kids whose skates hit the floor like parades of elephants and who fall down all around you, and the DJ who won’t play anything but crappy Top 40 hits.

Last night I accepted that I was going to suck right out of the gate, so I took it slow. I only fell once. Kitti and Jenny were very supportive — they only started again just last week themselves. I took breaks when I got too hot, and I quit when my knee got wobbly. It’s still a bit wobbly today, but that’s okay. I have a small blister on my heel (two pairs of socks next time; those damn skates have no insole at all), but that’s okay. I’m not hurting yet, but I probably will be, so I took some Tylenol this morning just in case. I’m older now, and I’m smart enough to do this right.

But I’m still allowed my delusions of grandeur. You bet your bippy I’m going to be there next Thursday. Roller Derby, here I come.

Hungry  Jenny raids the concession stand. Mmm…pickles