“Attention skaters, it’s men’s choice. Don’t be shy boys, go find a partner.” Blared the voice through the loud speaker. I always wondered what those people looked like because you never saw their faces. I didn’t care much for boy’s choice. I liked when the girls got to choose who they wanted to roller skate with. When the boys got to select, I had less control. Even at eleven, I liked being in charge of myself. I didn’t make huge decisions, just one’s that were suitable for an eleven year old girl. Skating with a boy was my decision. If I wanted to, I would. If not, I declined. I was raised to be polite.
It was 1985. My white roller skates had rainbow laces and silver bells on the toes. I’d chosen to where a red and white striped mini skirt and a fuzzy white sweater that matched my leg warmers. I wore thick white tights, not pantyhose. Those were for teenagers. I did manage to sneak a red lipstick, an Avon sample to be exact, into my Jordace purse. I’d gone to the ladies’ room to apply the lipstick and some heavy, blue eyeliner. I felt like one of the women from the group, Abba.
I’ve found, over time, that some of the most important conversations I’ve had with people, are not necessarily people I’ve known well. And some of those talks are fast. They don’t last an hour or two but merely minutes. What can you really learn in just a few minutes with someone you’ll never see again in your life? You can learn a whole lot.
“Wanna skate with me, beautiful?” He asked. His red hair was parted on the left and it was greased down. I figured he probably had a terrible cowlick. He had a mouth full of silver that hadn’t helped his overbite out one bit. His clothes were that of the time, but he smelled like he’d gotten into his dad’s Brut cologne. I really did not want to skate with him but thought, what the heck.
“Take my hand, sexy lady.” He smiled. He reminded me of that awkward guy from, Welcome Back Kotter.
“Hold it right there. Do not use the word, sexy, with me. That’s inappropriate and it’ll get you slapped across the face by some girls. Got it?”
“Yes, pretty woman.”
“Look man, quit ok? You’ll never in your life get a girlfriend this way. You probably won’t get a wife either. You’re trying too hard.”
I took his hand and we rolled onto the rink. We couldn’t go very fast, it was a Saturday and the place was packed. We skated to a song by Janet Jackson. I kept about two feet of distance between us. I didn’t hold his hand like I loved him. I didn’t even hold it like I liked him. I held the tips of his fingers. He was smiling. His smile made me smile.
“I can skate backwards.” He said.
“Yes, want me too?”
He whipped around, and we were face to face. Still, I insisted on distance. I didn’t want to smell his breath. The cologne was enough.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” He asked. It caught me off guard. I detected true interest in his tone.
“What I want to be and what I’m suppose to be are too different things.” I said.
“What do you want to be?”
“I want to be a dancer?” I said.
“Like on Broadway?”
“No, like in a club.”
His eyes got wide. He knew what I meant.
“Why would you want to do that?”
“For the money. I figure I can take a few drugs, numb my brain and dance for money.”
“You mentioned you were supposed to be something. What is that?” He asked as he kept an eye behind himself. He was a good skater.
“I’m supposed to be a writer.”
“Who says? Your parents?”
“A voice. It’s like a ghost. I can hear it in my head. I was told that I was to write books when I was eight years old.”
He almost came to a complete stop in the middle of the rink. I expected that. I didn’t for an instant, expect for him to believe me. By then, the song had ended and couple’s skate, boy’s choice was over. We kept skating.
“I will probably never see you again in my life. I haven’t even asked your name, but I need to say something to you. Don’t slap me. Do not dance for money. Listen to the voice of the ghost. Grow up a become a writer.”
“I have no clue what I’ll write about.”
“Don’t worry about that part. It’ll come to you in time. And by the way, my name is John. When I grow up, I want to be a doctor. My parents already have a college fund for me. I skipped a grade. I get made fun of for being a nerd because I’m so smart, but I don’t care. I know I’m going to do something great in life and I know you are too. What’s your name?”
“Sherry. My name is Sherry.”