WORLD ON WHEELS
“Roller skating was originally called skeelers and came from ice skating which started 2,999 years after Christ was born.”
“Hm,” says P.
“Although I guess it might be 2,997 years or 2,995 years depending on what you believe but it’s crazy to believe any of it you know? Like how can you believe there was someone who turned water into wine and then slid down a chimney and left presents?”
“Yeah,” says P., jiggling her leg so that it shakes the Formica booth and makes a little clinking sound where it hits the zipper on her boots. P.’s only fifteen but she’s the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen. She’s got this round cat face with protruding cheekbones that disappear when she smiles. She says it makes her look fat in photos so she never smiles when she has her picture taken and hardly ever in real life. I’m not so much older, but there’s a major difference between fifteen and seventeen – two years you’d think, not such a big deal, but that’s when shit happens.
“I didn’t think there’d be so many people here,” I gesture out to W.O.W.’s crowded rink; families, couples, teenagers, single moms. “Seriously, anyone spending Christmas day in a roller rink should be annihilated and I don’t mean that in a bad way, I mean for them. To save them. I mean, I guess things could get better, like they could win the lottery and next year vacation in Greece but chances are slim. Chances are that’s not gonna happen. Chances are it’s been this way their whole lives and it’s gonna be this way forever.”
“You’re really cynical.”
“I know,” I say, feeling great she thinks so.
“It’s kinda’ mean.”
I feel stupid. She can do that to me. Knock me down like a bobblehead.
“I’m being empathetic, you know? Like understanding them.”
P. looks unconvinced.
“Like I know these people once had dreams. I know they didn’t picture spending holidays in a roller rink when they were kids.”
“What do you think they pictured?”
“What we all do – orgies in nightclubs with celebrities.”
“I picture a giant English Tudor house with tall, skinny grey dogs lying around on massive blood-red rugs and fireplaces and a football-field length table covered with food made out of gold but edible,” P. tells me debunking my whole ‘everyone theory.’
“And I’m there?” I ask, relinquishing my dreams to become one with hers.
P. scrunches up her nose and drags her eyebrows down the side of her face. “No,” she says.
But she can tell that makes me sad so she asks if I want to skate. Tightens her hot pink laces and holds out her hand.
Stuttering across the floor, the strobe lights flash across the planes of her cat face and Huey Lewis and the News sing about needing a new drug, which makes me think I don’t need a new one, but more, and also, I don’t think this song is appropriate holiday music.
We reach the edge of the rink and the DJ puts on my favorite jam-Don Henley’s Boys of Summer. This song is perfect and maybe if you just said the name of it someone would scoff, say it’s retro and not in a good way, but when you put it on, when you listen to it, you realize it’s one of the best songs ever written. You know how you have a soundtrack playing in your head when you walk around? This is mine. I wish I could crawl inside this song and sleep forever.
P. lets go of my hand and whooshes out onto the floor. Once, when I was with my sister at Beercan Island, I swung out over the Gulf of Mexico in a tire swing and dropped into a riptide and didn’t make it back to shore for a very long time. My sister says I lost so much oxygen that day it changed my brain. I dunno if that’s true or not because I don’t remember how I was before.
A woman dressed in a reindeer sweater chases a man holding up a spring of mistletoe. An old man in a Santa suit glides around the rink alone. I swivel, skate backwards, and the world and everyone in it flow in reverse like a movie and that makes it hurt less that P. doesn’t want to have sex with me because if this is all just a movie, then surely I’m gonna get my happy ending.