Of course there were the good ones, the showoffs, with their comfortable leather boots, laced up properly, gliding in wide arcs, weaving through the amateur, stumbling counter-clockwise crowd. And there were the young boys who knew they were cool, and for knowing ceased to be cool at all. We, the laughers, we knew we weren’t cool, and we knew they were just pretending. We ignored them.
I got better after Kenny adjusted the plastic straps that clamped down across my feet. My feet were encased in a large plastic prison of a boot and despite the pain, I was able to push myself across the ice, polar bear hat atop my head. I touched people, reached out to steady them if they were close to the wall and trying to reach safety, or if I was the one groping for anything to steady myself. Or not being able to stop, instead of tackling them, sort of bear hugging them a little further down the rink. I apologized every time, but they didn’t seem to mind. We laughed some more.
Of course, we were all in this whirling crazy circuit together, but there was still a primitive element of fending for oneself. Boys and girls would grab each other and take their friends down with them, slamming into the ice in places that would remember that cold impact with purple, green, and blue pain tomorrow. Some people skated with their hands outstretched, as if they were making a way for themselves, reaching out for whatever was to come next.
The ice was bumpy from our blades. There was shaved ice in little clumps across the rink and shored up against the wall in drifts. And I thought— as we tripped and glided around the rink in wild sporadic fits of inelegance and then grace— I thought we are cutting through something. Cutting through all the pretense and artifice that keeps us from enjoying each other’s presence ordinarily. Because ordinarily, we do not enjoy crowds of people or others grabbing us so forcefully. But here, because of the laughter and the bright lights and the wind in our faces, we did not care. We were real. We were all a little off balance and we were all the same distance from the ice. It was sliding underneath us and we were each vulnerable to the great white slick below. But it was a carefree vulnerability, one that puts everyone at ease and in a good mood and makes it easy to laugh when you bust your butt on the cold hard ice.
Despite the uncomfortable skates, I spent a beautiful hour on the ice. I wobbled and tried to fly many times, once finding myself hanging from the wall, legs splayed in opposite directions. One of my legs went underneath another woman standing beside me and we looked at each other and we laughed.
Because our lives sometimes feel like a spinning top, a circular inevitability, never ending and much too fast, we become unhappy and we stomp through our lives like spoiled children. But this night, we acknowledged the circle, we rejoiced in the circle, and the blades of our skates carved the goodness of our lives into the ice. Around, around, around. Together, we sailed, stumbled, crawled, and pushed ourselves around, around, around.