your snow pants whisk as you walk, or rather amble down the slope to the canal, frozen and snowy below, a shovel in one hand, hockey sticks in the the other and a pair of hand-me-down leather skates tied together by their laces, tossed over your shoulder, thunking against your back and chest. your coat zipped up to your chin and the taste of yarn on your wet mouth, fog going up into the warm lenses of your eyeglasses. you begin in your felt boots to shovel the snow off the hard ice. the neighbor kids come too with their shovels, and soon you are sitting on the snow, pulling your woolen socks off with your boots, then setting the boots beside you as you tie your feet into the tightness of the skates. by now your scarf is stuffed in your boots and your coat half zipped, mittens damp and snowy, you slap your hands together in quick succession to get the clumping snow off. you play at olympic skater, though wobbly, you can only skate backwards at a clip far slower than your foward skate, which is performed like a distance skater, leaning forward as the skates snick off to the sides and behind you. a game of hockey is devised and goals made of clumps of dirt, or sticks jammed into the banks, and newcomers told to avoid skating in the hot spot that is always there under thinner ice. by the time you come in, your cheeks are pink, and your lips, brittle, cracking as you try to smile, your feet feel awkward again in boots, as though you are still wearing skates, the instep of your feet aching from holding your flat feet upright on a thin blade. your glasses are so fogged up you can only see out the edges of them, you take off your ass wet pants, and wet dog smelling mittens thick with hard balls of snow stuck fast in the fibers of them, hot chocolate water heating on the stove, you hang your wet snow things by the wood stove and the house smells like melting snow.
years later, you are making your way across the slick sidewalks to class, from class, to your dorm, to the dining hall, you skate with your thin boots across the quad, your breath thick and cloudy, your laughter, your joy visible, remembering. and later still you rent skates and try to skate on the hard ice of a city rink, and it feels fake, like a dollar store version of a tonka truck, like frozen pizza compared to your mom’s homemade, like the person beside you who only pretends to love you, and you with your glasses fogged up so you cannot see.
this is what i think of as i lay in his bed, the feeling of his firm and furry kisses still on my cheeks, the weight of his hand on my hip, feeling the earth sliding underneath me, like skating on some detached chunk of ice, movement on movement. i realize it is this, this feeling as though you are still wearing skates, even though you are not anymore.
i think of him, at the end of a short but fierce argument, fumbling with the door, knocking to get back in, finding his keys on his person already, fumbling the lock, fumbling the keys, and telling me, angry like, how i am the best thing that ever happened to him in his whole life, he is mad at me, for sure, but rather than retire from it and nurse it like a grudge, he turns to me and embraces me fiercely, there is no violence in this argument, just egos. really. and in the morning we will talk about it, quietly, resolving to be easier on each other, did you notice that i cleaned the house while you were at work, did you notice i cleaned out that drawer for you finally, you know i will never ever be submissive, i know, you know you are the first person i have ever lived with in my whole adult life, i know, but also i don’t want to live alone again, i like you here with me. and i feel a softening inside me. that sliding feeling, like i am skidding, like i have no brakes, and that is when i think of skating on the sidewalks.
i still have that feeling as though i am wearing the skates, though i am not, anymore, that feeling that somehow i have forgotten how to skate with my boots on.