Did you know that I used to be an ice skater? This was back when I was a little girl, when I had not yet grown into my face. Did you know that I’ve always had this face? My mother covered it in blush at the age of three and we were driving to competitions by the second grade. Did you know that now my face is creasing? You probably didn't want to know that. Would you like to hear about my first solo? I won second place and then sat in the back of our minivan and cried for about twenty minutes. Did you know that skaters put white tape over their white skates, to make them look even whiter? There can be so many layers of tape on any given foot, you’d be surprised. You might think it would start to get heavy. And talk about little known facts! Did you know you are not allowed to ice skate if you are clinically overweight? It becomes a liability. Did you know that the snack stand at the ice rink sells nachos? You are not allowed to get them if anyone is looking. Do you know what it feels like to be watched? I mean really watched, I mean fish bowl watched. I mean for three and a half minutes, a cassette tape is playing with your music on it and you are the only one on the ice doing all the silly things. You are spinning. You are jumping. You are flinging your arms into the air and then placing them onto your hips, which are popped. When you take a toe pick to the ground, you are the one everyone is watching as you try to make your poor way back up. Did you know that you can’t wear gloves for your solo? You must put your bare hands to the ice and push.
Do you know all about the double axel? You would think it’s two rotations, but in truth it’s really two and a half. That means you take off in one direction and land in the other. That means you start off moving forwards, and end up trailing back. The first time I landed a double axel, I had just turned fourteen, and I had not yet matured. Do you know what I mean by not yet matured? I am talking about puberty, which messes with your balance. Did you know I was accused of lying about my age? My mother would tell them I had delayed growth, but then they suspected her of stunting me with coffee. Did you know that I’ve never even liked the taste of coffee? Now I brew it in the mornings, just for the lovely smell. Do you do anything like that, just for the lovely smell? Caramelizing onions comes to mind, but I wouldn’t want to wake up that way. What I'd want is to wake up, a little less matured.
Did you know I was once a member of a team? It was the regional high school Ice Capades of St. Louis. We accepted a gig to perform in Chicago, but our bus never made it past the state line. Do you know how many rental cars it takes to fit all the members of the regional high school Ice Capades of St. Louis? The answer is seven. The answer is we could only afford to go back home. I do have to be honest with you about one thing: it was not the bus’s fault. The bus driver died at a red light. Did you know that if your bus driver dies, you still have to take your finals the next Monday? High school does not care about bereavement. High school is actually the worst place for those who grieve, because the lights are fluorescent and there’s no place to hide your ish. Ish is the word my mother always used to describe any unwanted feelings you may have. Ish is pretty much everywhere, the week your bus driver dies and you have to test in math.
Be honest with me, now: do you ever feel like the world is unfair for little girls? I do not mean to get on a soapbox here. I don’t even know what a soapbox is. What I mean to say is there are only so many layers of tape. There are only so many ways to cause a scene. How come it is always the boy who cries wolf? Do you ever feel like the best thing to do is quit? I stopped ice-skating at the age of sixteen, and this opened up for me a world of opportunities. Did you know that you are never too old to join the Girl Scouts? Your troop leader may seem dismayed, but if you stand your ground, she will honor the vest. I know you know that I had delayed growth. This means everything was delayed. This means I still have two of my baby teeth, tucked inside the back row of chewers. Did you know that if you look really close, you can see a mark on my stomach where a freckle used to be? It had to be removed because I didn’t like the way it looked. Did you know that I’ve never actually been in love with the way I look? I feel like if I was born in a different time, I could have been a decent folk singer. Did you know I had a friend who was deaf in one ear? Talk about messing with your balance! The world to her like a concrete wave.
Do you like this time of year? When it is hot and all the leaves are on their respective trees? I have always been more comfortable in the cold, but then again, I am most myself when indoors. This didn’t bode well for my time in the Girl Scouts. I joined other groups, too, because there’s no hurt in trying. Did you know that my mother always said that to me? There’s no hurt in trying, so you might as well try. I tried to land a triple axel a total of three and a half times in my life. Do you know what the results were? I fell, I fell, I fell, and I fell. The last time only counted for half because I gave up in the middle and landed on my knees. Do you know what my mother said to me after that? There’s no hurt in trying, even though she could see that both my legs were broke.
Did you know that I’ve still never been to Chicago? There are so many things that I’ve never done. I’ve never given a dog a bath, or slept with a cat curled up on my head. I’ve never ridden a roller coaster while sitting next to my boyfriend who is squeezing my hand. I’ve never had a boyfriend to squeeze my hand. I’ve never changed the oil in my car. I never got a good hold on fractions. I’ve never ordered a frozen hot chocolate. I’ve never auditioned for a play. I’ve never gone back to watch my old skating videos, even though I know just where they are. I’ve not once unpacked the box with my dresses and matching hair ties and tights and old blades. I’ve never touched the blade warmers and rolls of tape and tapes of music and gloves for practice and medals and ribbons and fake crystal trophies etched with my name. I’ve never squeezed the stuffed animals that were thrown out to me on the ice by adults. I’ve never even thought about it, too.
Did you know I haven’t been given a round of applause since I quit?
Molly Tolsky is a fiction writer from Chicago, currently living in New York. Her work has previously appeared in The Collagist, The Outlet, The Fiddleback, MAKE: A Chicago Literary Magazine and elsewhere.