Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Grade 9, Track 13

Saints' Roller Rink had a blue, nearly plastic finish to their rink floor, and the wax had a distinctively pastel smell to it. The sound of roller bearings and rubber wheels was equally distinctive, as was the odor of spilled Coke and the drugstore perfume that 14-year-old girls resorted to.

But nothing was so distinctive or so gut-wrenching as the advice and dressing up (or down) that I received at the hands of J___. “Adidas track jacket, good. T-shirt, no. Ditch the shirt, keep the jacket. Push up those sleeves, give the girls a bit of forearm. And whattaya got the zipper up so high for? Show 'em your chest, for God's sake.”

J___ was a lad who had clocked in considerably more face-time with girls than any of the rest of us had, so I paid attention, followed every bit of his advice to the (absence of) T, then staggered back onto the rink with my track jacket unzipped to my navel, the better to let the air dry out the acne on my scrawny, hairless chest. I remember a shared clammy hand during a “couples only” skate, and little else, because what else was there to remember about these miserable affairs?

Except this song. Wow, was this ever a weird song. Everything else that pounded through the speakers was related directly to the adolescent libido . . . but this? I had no clue what this song was about, and I'm sure I skated around in that witless clockwise direction with my jaw hanging open, trying to figure it all out.

“Repetitive song, Dad,” says the younger. Yes. Yes, it is. And that's part of its spooky charm. I liked this song, not just because it distracted me from everything I wasn't as a “man” but because it actually seemed to take a perverse delight in that seemingly unbridgeable gap. For about three minutes I could forget this whole business of trying to make myself presentable to the Mysterious Other, and marvel instead at the Mysteriously Foreign Self that was clomping around with heavy feet on a sticky plastic floor.


No comments: