Tonight, I take the first step to conquering a fear.
A fear I have harboured for decades.
For the first time, since 1986, I will be attempting…to roller skate.
Now, the first time I rollerskated didn’t exactly…go…well…
It seemed like a good idea. It did. As a late-1970s child, I had grown up in the golden age of skating - Cliff Richard gliding through a low-res sheen of how-dare-you-suggest-otherwise-heterosexuality in ‘Wired For Sound’, Graeme’s violent and tufty Rollerball parody in The Goodies episode ‘2001 and a Bit’, and the over-arching generational obsession with ‘Xanadu’…it was like the rink was calling me, I guess. If only I’d realised it was calling me to my doom.
So, in our second year of Melbourne-residency, mum took us to the roller skating rink. Callooh callay! The marvel! The whizzing sounds! The really, REALLY hard surface! For we tiny, country child-beings had not seen such wonders in Wagga Wagga, from whence I had sprung, oh my, no! Surely this would be as easy to teach myself as teaching myself to swim - just do laps, holding onto the edge, until you get the hang of it! Easy peasey scrape-your-kneesies!
Holy buckets of rude-words - I was terrified. Those wheels! They go every which way! Capricious little bastards, they made direction-sluts of my footsies, and, frankly, I felt betrayed. White-knuckled with fear and shuddering with confusion, I made my way around the rink once, twice, maybe three times, but basically I was desperate to stop as soon as I possibly could. I inched my way to the exit, called for the woman who released me from her womb-cage, and plaintively pleaded to be able to stop.
"Go around one more time, then we’ll go home" was my mother’s response.
OK. Disappointed, true, but I recognised it was a negotiation between my terror and her wanting me to go away for a few more minutes. I can cope with those stakes. Just one more time, my ginger child-brain reasoned. I can do that. I can. Then, after that last lap, this horrible, horrible ordeal will be over and I will never, EVER have to do it again.
So, wobbly step by wobbly step, I made my way around the rink, millimetre at a time. Remember how time dragged when you were a kid? This was like time in a thigh-deep puddle of treacle with both its hamstrings sliced and a full-grown wriggling bush boar draped on its shoulders.
After a rink-lap of slow and sheer tension, I made it back to the exit. Oh sweet relief! Joy washed over me, the warmest of feelings - I was filled with an ethereal love of life. I found joy in breathing alone, every puff of air being likened to an elixir from the gods! Praise be! And so, I lifted one horribly heavy be-skated boot off the RINK OF DEATH and onto the textured exit mat…whereupon it flew out from under me, propelling me upwards, and precipitating my temporarily airborne self to land with a ligament-tearing crunch onto my other foot, which had unhelpfully curled directly underneath me to interrupt the connection of my bottom with the exit mat like a smear of Vegemite being squeezed between two Salada squares.
Embarrassed and scared (because years of quite stern parenting had instilled me a conviction that if I ever get ill or seriously injure myself, it was entirely due to my own colossal stupidity), I crawled silently to the nearest booth like an extra from ‘Gone With the Wind’, dragged myself onto it, and began to unlace the boot on the injured foot. This became increasingly difficult as my ankle unhelpfully quibbled with the de-booting by immediately swelling to four times its normal size and turning a lovely mottled purply-black-blue hue.
Six weeks of hard plaster. Another three of soft plaster.
Incidentally, a few weeks afterwards, I went to watch the others go ice-skating and witnessed the supervising adult fall backwards and concuss herself. On the plus side, I got really good at kicking a soccer ball whilst on crutches.
Still, I’m gonna try again, kidz. I have my new, hot pink roller skates waiting for christening. Hey, it’s only taken 26 years to get back into it! What could possibly go wrong, right? Right? Hallooooo…?
(shivering and rocking)…I like small speakers….I like tall speakers…