by Phoebe Sandlin
These roller-skates are lit.
Chariots. Burning muscles. Sisters. Music. The symphony of plastic wheels on wood floors and planks warped by time, both run smooth. A rhythmic hush that rolls like thunder as you glide. Hearing stories, hearing music, hearing cheers and realizing some are your own, words bubbling up like the dizziest party.
You’re flying with just a shove of your feet to the left and right, pressing into the floor, limitless. You want to go faster but there are people around you and you don’t know how to stop, how to dodge, little kids who are better than you are and adults, but some who are worse, too. You tighten the laces on your skates.
They hurt your feet. They are beautiful. They are cheap. They are so sturdy they could survive a nuclear bomb and let you skate away on them, the hush-hush of wheels on the ashes of this sketch little skating rink.
They’re like the world, too, though. Your legs– not as toned as you think, as you want– pushing out and coming back together glide smoothly, pressure furrowing deep into the earth like roots, your skates going faster than the cool air that flows around you, pressing every curve.
Roller skates. Time machines. Exercise. Laughter. Fun. Better than being drunk—something most of us shouldn’t know. Glitter everywhere, bright pink shirts, lights strobing around you, people talking, it’s so loud but the skates the skates the skates anchor you to the earth. Flowers, vines, roots, like ice-skates but those pull you up in frigid motion and these skates are woody, a little burning, fast fast faster than your heart.
You want an empty rink that stretches on for miles and the ability to go without worrying about how you’ll stop.
Someone hugs you from behind but you keep going. Sometimes you break apart and dare to dance a little before flailing to regain your balance, arms spinning like a DJ cutting records. At one point you see your people and wheel over, the breaks on your skates hitting the carpeted rise to send you bowing forward, hands first, knees, feet following at their own pace in the unwieldy, magical shoes. You only wish they had little wings on the ankles to complete your ascendance. As you catch your breath, leaning back against an air vent, someone tells a funny story. Peals of laughter and sisterhood and bodies wrapped in fuzzy blankets, a punchline of “Shhh, accept the cuddle,” and more laugher before the black and white guardian of skate sanctity, this trailer park rink, asks you to keep from dangling your skates over the sides.
Why? That’s where they belong. That’s where you belong.
Push yourself up.
Children fall and pop back up, some in rented beat-up skates, others in shiny personal ones. You know that if you fell you’d be done for, seeing yourself with old joints and fragile skin and so much fear in a body that can still bounce back you just don’t trust it to. Once you fall it’ll all be over and the winged shoes will be blocks of cement keeping you to ground, every inch of fey magic pulled away from them like the transition from rink to carpeted floor that halts all momentum and makes walking, much less gliding, near impossible.
You think of old skates from your childhood, insignificant or painful memories, hunks of plastic and fabric that are entirely irrelevant. Except they aren’t. One row of wheels, impossible to use, skinned knees on concrete and stinging palms, dad’s hands big pulling you up, pushing you off again, like the wheels on your bike. The same pricking tears when you fall, inevitably. Then four wheels, two on each side, like the ones you wear now in the rink with your pink-robed sisters, easier to manage but still too hard on uneven roads, on bumpy sidewalks, don’t know how to stop on streets full of people bikers joggers cars, so you stop.
The wheels are flying, the wheels are summer, the wheels are the turning of life in seasons and years and you don’t realize that, not yet, but you will when you look back and see that insignificant objects of pain, exercise, failed father-daughter time, are portals, are wings, are the impossible. There is more magic in those frayed laces and rough-smoothed orange wheels and soft brown thick fabric sides and tight tight tight ties around your ankles, than there is in all the warm mornings of summer where days stretch, infinite as the wooden rink, going around and around and around hearing the whoosh of wheels on wood forever.
Ashes settle around you as you uncurl from the remains of the rink, of pink shirts, of greasy pizza and old disco lights. The missile detonated. You regain your balance and push off in a cloud of black, going, and going, and going.
Roller-skates are lit.
Phoebe Sandlin is a freshman from Virginia Beach, VA, but who lives in FL. She’ll probably major in starving artistry, with a minor in French.