Devin Dearing Preston: NYC writer, playwright, and storyteller

Obnoxious Rollerblading Metaphor

September 4, 2010

I’m terrible at sports. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I’m very athletic, but lack the patients and time to become as good at sports as I want to be. My competitive nature resents my lack of natural talent and stick- to-it- evnous, so spectator is usually the most effective position I play. 

With one small exception. I love to Rollerblade. I am aware that is not really a “sport.” There are no winners or losers. Unless, of course,  you are racing. In that case, the winner is me and the looser is everybody else. Including you, sucker! Okay, you’re right. I’m not that good. But if you haven’t ever rollerbladed a day in your life, I’ll smoke you every time. 

My relationship with rollerblading goes back decades. Two, to be exact. 

I want to take you back to a place in time where prepubescents hung out at the roller rink every friday and saturday night. There was a snack bar, a disco ball, and an endless array of 80’s pop songs to spin right round to. It was a remarkably wholesome good time. These rinks where for roller skates only, but the logistics of skating are almost identical. All the cool kids had their own, skates that is. Mine were white with purple laces and grey wheels. But you could rent hideously ugly brown skates with traffic-cone orange wheels if you were a major looser. And the ultimate way to rise to the top of the little kid social ladder was to have your 10th birthday party at the roller rink. I never hosted, but attended my fair share of these wonderful occasions. I still vividly remember cruising around the shellacked floor rocking my acid-wash jean shorts and unicorn t-shirt with a ribbon flapping in my side pony tail as The Bangle’s “Walk like an Egyptian” blared over the sound system. And the memory smacks of nothing but pure unadulterated bliss. That is until the “last skate” played, and I knew I had to wait an entire week to be that happy again.

Now, my love for skating was no secret. So for my 7th birthday, my father gave me a brand new pair of Rollerblades!!! I was overjoyed. I was the first kid on the block to own them. Which made me really cool two times over. I could put them on anytime I wanted and disappear into a world of gliding wonder. I was never happier than when I was rollerblading, even if it was merely around the block. No trick was too hard to try. No distance was too far to travel. And no one accident was too painful to detour me from my passion. But that was childhood. Scraped knees were just par for the course. And four feet really isn’t that far from the cold hard pavement.

Somewhere between 14 and 26 I forgot how much I loved this moderately dangerous pass time. I discovered new forms of distraction. Boys. Stardom. And academic achievement became my escape. And my Rollerblades began collecting dust in the bottom of my hall closet.  They are still there as far as I know and probably long for the day of our magical reunion as much as I do. 

Well, as my search for my true self began, it dawned on me that I chased danger long before I chased men. Only I use to do it on wheels. Rollerblading. Of course! Damn that was fun. And since I was denying myself the fun of sex, I thought now was as good a time as any to pick it back up again. And I wondered what possessed me to ever put it away in the first place.

So, late February, I took my adult self to Paragon sports in Union Square and bought the best pair my money could buy. I armed myself with wrist guards but no helmet. The sales guy insisted I didn’t really need one? A snazzy sporting back-pack was given to me by my gay husband (who can always be counted on for accessorizing) to keep things like spare shoes, keys and a subway pass handy on what would be my many trips up and down the west-side highway. I only had to wait for the weather to improve before I could take them out after my long endured hiatus. I was really stoked. Nervous? Maybe a little, but mostly really stoked.

And sure as spring, I scheduled a rollerblading date with a friend on the first beautiful Saturday of the season. It did not go well.

In all my excitement down my five flights of stairs, skates in hand, I forgot to take into account what you get when you add marble stairs, sports socks and a quick pace. That’s right, my feet flew out from under me somewhere between the second and third floors and I landed, hard, directly on my back, taking a stony step to my elbow, spinal column and funny bone. No one saw, luckily. Or heard the tremendous thud and graphic exploitives that flew out of my mouth. I wasn’t seriously hurt. But, I learned a valuable lesson. DON’T RUN DOWN THE STAIRS IN SOCKS. YOU IDIOT. So my ego (and ass) was already a little bruised before I even got the damn skates on, but I was determined to enjoy myself.

I made it to 181st street almost incident free. It was admittedly slow going at first. I was farther from the ground then I remembered. A lot farther. So I gave myself a pep talk, reminded myself I knew how to do this, I really enjoyed doing this and took off toward the greenway. It wasn’t long before I was soaring down the path, wind in my hair, dust at my feet. I was invincible and having the time of my life. I felt so powerful. So in control. So graceful. And strong. I resisted yelling out “Yippy!” as I weaved around the corners and kept pace with the biker in front of me. You should have seen me go. Hell, it was quite impressive. I did think that maybe that sales guy was mistaken. A helmet would probably not be a bad idea. I was really moving and falling down was not an option. It might kill me. Really.

I dug in my pocket for my phone around 181st, which held a warning from my friend. “Be careful of the steep hills,” read a text from her. Surely she’s exaggerating, I smugly thought to myself. Having developed my skating skills in Texas where the topography is flat and flatter, I was not prepared for the sight that awaited me around the bend.

My friend wasn’t in fact exaggerating. The only way to get under the George Washington bridge, where we planned to meet, was to brave the path that slopes steeper than Manhattan’s real estate prices. It’s almost a 90 degree drop, no kidding.We are talking double diamond. As I stared down the hill my life flashed before my eyes. I went over the many possible outcomes in my head. Immediate death. Permanent handicap. Or slow painful death after years of near permanent handicap seemed to be the only plausible results. So I grabbed on to the iron fence on the side and walked down side ways, holding on for dear life, hanging my head in humiliation while reminding myself that I was having so much fun. I made it to the bottom, fifteen minutes later, but in one piece, and felt like I could do anything.

The second hill took me completely by surprise. It looked so puny compared to its terrifying big brother. And I decided it was a risk I was willing to take. Plus, there was no railing and I was already rolling in that direction. Please, don’t get ahead of me folks. But, you are right. If your mind is wandering to an image of Miss Piggy careening down a hill on roller skates in “Muppets Take Manhattan”, you are pretty spot on. Except, my hair is red.  The  funny thing about physics is, I started at a pretty measly speed, but half way down the hill, nothing could stop me. Except maybe the grass growing around a large wooden post at the bottom of the hill. The post and my upper thigh got rather intimate rather quickly and with quite an intense force. I stopped.  And didn’t fall down. But that was not a pleasant feeling.

“That’s going to leave a mark!!” I shouted. I think someone in New Jersey might have heard me. My friend witnessed the whole scene, so I played it off.

“Was that the hill you were talking about?” I casually asked, pointing behind me. I picked the grass out of my wheels, checked for blood and continued on with our skate. It was fine, but the post left a mark on more than just my upper right thigh. (The scar is still there, in case you are wondering)

How many times did I take out my blades after that, you ask? 

None. I thought about it. A lot. Longed for the speed and excitement. But I also didn’t want to get hurt again. My first scar was still visible and injury seemed like an absolute certainty. Until last Sunday, that is. It was a beautiful day. Maybe the last beautiful Sunday of the summer. Fall is quickly approaching, and this was really my last chance to bliss out in a gliding wonderland. I refused to be beat by my fear. I put my foot down. The positive effects were worth the risk I decided. I was going to have a successful Rollerblading experience, if it killed me. But this time I was going to be smarter. I wasn’t going to make the same mistakes.

I put on sunscreen. And I wore a baseball cap. (So I wouldn’t get burned) I brought a buddy. I walked down my stairs in bare feet. While holding the hand rail. I removed my skates at the top of the huge hills and walked till the ground became safe and level again. I stopped for water and breaks when I became fatigued and was loosing control. I didn’t go too fast. I avoided other bikers and pedestrians. I stayed in my lane. I followed every rule there was. And avoided all the really dangerous situations that got me hurt in the past.

Out of no where, some woman hit me with her bike!! 

Bam! Knocked me off my feet. Fell on top of me. Twisted my knee. Bruised and scratched my arm. Marred my ass. I lay there, as far to the right as I could be without being on the grass, in shock. Near tears and wondering why this had to happen. I didn’t know if I was broken. I was certainly in a lot of pain. And it was really unclear for a moment if I would be able to walk, let alone Rollerblade again. 

Two beautiful shirtless men came to my rescue. And I didn’t care that they were gay. They helped me to my feet, off of the path and gave me something glorious to look at to take my mind off the intense pain. And I sat there, looking over the point of contact and assessing the damage. And wondering how this happened when I was being ever so safe.  

And I was struck with an ugly reality. It doesn’t matter what you do or how safe you are. There are careless people in the world with the power to hurt you. If you ask for it or not. And its nobodies fault, it just happens sometimes. I’m sure she didn’t set out on her journey with the intent to mow over a defenseless skater. But she did. She probably felt bad about it, too. But it doesn’t take away the fact that she hurt me. And that I will think more than twice before I ever get on Rollerblades again. Damn it.

When I was a little girl, and would fall off my bike and scrape my knee, my father would scold me.

“Now don’t you cry! You are jist fine. You want me to give ya sumethin to cry about?”

And I have been pushing through my feelings ever since. Plowing ahead, no matter what the obstacle, pretending to be invincible. But I’m not. No one is. I get hurt. Crazed bikers run into me. And I have the bruises and scars to prove it. The one on my arm is especially intense. 

The good news is, bruises and scars fade.  And with enough time, you would never know they were ever there in the first place.  The truth is, if accidents are inevitable, and most injuries are merely temporary, we might just as well get hurt enjoying ourselves. 

The only alternative is a world with no Rollerblading. And what kind of world would that be?

Categories: See Jane Give Up Dick

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