Roller Skating; a real trip

The little group of teenagers I was a member of would meet at the church every other Friday evening to do some form of entertainment.  Some evenings we just sat around, danced to records, or played games.  On this fateful evening we decided that we would head for Santa Rosa and go to the skating rink.

My hair rose off the back of my neck as these words sank in – the SKATING RINK!?  Oh, no, not the skating rink.  So far in my life I had managed to avoid looking like a deer on ice by staying away from anything that required me to don either wheels or blades.  Up until now, that is.

Carol, my current girlfriend, piped up and told me that basically it was easy.  Just strap roller skates on our feet, stand up on a really hard wood floor, and move your feet back and forth.  No sweat.

Yeah, sweat.  I’d never been on skates in my life – never.

“Sure,” I said with nervous bravado.  “No problem at all.  Did you know I was captain of the roller skating club in Germany?”

“Yeah, right,” Was all that she said.  “You’re going, if I have to push you around the floor myself.”

Time began to fly by on fleet little wheeled feet and suddenly we were packed into cars and out on 101, headed north.  I figured I had about twenty minutes to live so I tried my best to snuggle Carol.  This was difficult because her friend Tina was between us.

“Hey, watch it buster!”  Tina stated as my hand poked her in the side.

Oops, sorry Tina.

Finally we arrived.  There seemed to be a lot of cars in the lot so I said, hopefully, “It looks like a lot of cars.  What say we go have a soda?  Anyone?”

Silence reigned supreme until Carol’s voice piped up and told me to pipe down.  She dragged me from the car and firmly held my hand as if I might try to run away.  Hah!  Me?

‘Come on Tom.  You aren’t scared, are you?”

“Me.  No way.  Why, I’ll walk right in there and show you a thing or two.”  I said, fighting the urge to add ‘probably my ass going over my shoulders on the way to a three-point landing – nose, forehead and chin’.

“Sure looks like a long line to get skates doesn’t it?  Anyone want to get a soda?”

“Freeze, Tom,” commanded Carol, with a hand on my collar.  “You’re going to do this.”

That’s what I was afraid of – doing this.  With trepidation I faced the kid at the counter and told her my shoe size hoping that they might have run out.

“Eleven and a half left and nine right” I said with a straight face.

She broke up when Carol smacked my on the back of my head.

“Okay, Okay.  Nine and a half – both feet,” I told her.

She rummaged around behind her and slapped two boots on the counter and took my fifty cents.  I eyed them with suspicion wondering if there was any way I could make the wheels so they wouldn’t turn.  That way I could just fake it with gliding strides.

Over at the bench, Carol slipped into her skates and laced them up.  Not wanting to be a complete weenie, I followed her every move up to and almost succeeding putting a little yarn ball on the top lace.  Fortunately, I caught my mistake before anyone saw me.

“You go on ahead, I’ll be along in a minute,” I said, hoping she would do just that.

“No way, Ho Say, you’re gonna go out there right now,” she demanded, taking my hand and pulling me to my feet.

Well, almost to my feet.  One foot went out straight in front of me, the other went almost under the bench, and my ass went directly, do not pass ‘Go’, to the floor.  I smiled; maybe I’d broken a leg.  Hope spring eternal.

Nope, I hadn’t broken anything except smiles on the faces of others as I baby-stepped my way out and onto the floor.  Carol, ever helpful, pulled me along at increasing speed while telling me to ‘move my feet’.

Move my feet?  I could barely move air in and out of my chest, much less move my feet.  And, what direction to I move my feet?  I looked around to see what others were doing and saw that they moved their legs in a short stroking motion with a little flip of the toe of their skates just before they picked up that foot to bring it forward.

I tried a couple tentative strokes and immediately dropped to my hands in a push-up arrangement.

“Just checking to see what kind of wood this was.  Looks very nice.”

“Yeah, right,” Carol said, in a voice laden with sarcasm.  “Get off your hands and stand up again.”

I struggled to my feet in what would have been a hilarious sight if I’d been watching anyone else do it; frightening, in my case.  Arms jutting out, elbows bent, body struggling to stay vertical while those little wheels did their best to fly out from under me.

I had never been able to do any type of split.  I’m told that only girls can do that; boys just aren’t built right.  I proved them wrong in one move.  My right foot shot out in front of me, my left foot shot backwards and I crashed to the floor in agony.  Surely I had injured something important now that my dignity had already been lost.

Skaters simply swerved around me as I whimpered quietly without offering solace.  Carol once again lifted me to my feet, hanging tightly to my waist, and started pushing off with one foot while steering me along.  I began slight movements of my feet to assist her.  This lasted just fine until the straightaway ended and we had to make a sweeping turn.

As we entered it, Carol was hailed by another of our group.  She turned her head, loosened her grip on my waist, and I felt myself gliding rapidly straight ahead.

“Ahhhhhhhhh!”  I screamed, as I headed directly towards the wall.  “Look out I’m…”

I never finished the sentence because I had smacked flat against the far wall.  My vision started swimming, mostly because of the tears in my eyes from my nose hitting first.  I did vaguely recall someone (probably me) screaming something about dying immediately before the impact.

I rebounded nicely though.  I would probably have been awarded at least a 9.5 based on agility alone.  When I fell to the floor on both knees I held out my hands like a runner embracing the finish line.  I was certainly finished.

Passers by claimed I said something like “please mommy, I don’t want to go to school’ but I’ll deny that to the end.

Carol swooped over to me and, once again, helped me up to my feet.  This time, we held each other at the waist and she skated while I coasted.  It seemed a fair division of labor.  I got nervous as we approached the other end of the track, but we navigated the turn and struck out straight yet again.

By the tenth or twelfth circuit I felt I was adding some impetus to the two of us so I slipped my hand from Carol’s waist and simply held her hand instead.  We skated slowly around and around until the music stopped and a disembodied voice announced a ‘blackout’ dance.

I wondered what that meant until almost immediately the lights went out and three spotlights switched on and lit up a rotating glass-chip ball in the middle of the rink.  If anyone thinks that roller skates are disorienting, just imagine how bad they can be when you’re already ON them and the lights go out to be replaced by colored shafts of light that fly about the room.  It was years before the term ‘acid trip’ would be coined, but that’s what comes to mind.

“Turn around.  You skate backwards and I’ll push you,” Carol told me.

“What!  You want me to turn around and go backwards?  I’ll be killed.”

“No, silly.  I’ll guide you.  Now stop being a goof and turn around.”

I complied and she snuggled up close, put her arms around me, and started off.  I must admit that this had its advantages.  She was nice to be close to; was well rounded – both of them pushing nicely into my chest; and she seemed to enjoy it also.

Around and around we went.  I began to relax a little now that my imminent death was apparently postponed for a while.  Over time, I learned how to slide my feet, push off with my toe, and move along by myself.  Carol was close to me to help, but eventually all we did was hold hands and skate along.  We had a grand time until the light flashed twice and the voice said “last dance”.

Carol and I tightened our grip on each other and we sailed around the floor.  Sometimes she was in front, and sometimes I was in front.  I’d learned a lot that night – not the least of which was how to be a good skate.



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