I find the ice tentatively. It finds me, our first touch the scraping of my blades against its skin. I totter, find myself learning to walk again on cold ground.
Nobody in my family knows how to skate. Or ski. Snowboard. None of us know how to navigate the cold, the white.
I’m three times my normal size, puffed up in a winter jacket and snow pants and snow gloves. The ones that don’t soak through after holding a fistful of snow. The ones that make you wonder if this is what being able to hold fire would feel like.
I’ve seen figure skaters on TV. Watched them dance, spin in the air with an effortlessness that seemed almost absurd. Lithe bodies above the influence of gravity, untethered to the ground like the rest of us.
I want to fly. I’ve always wanted to fly, dreamed about it more times than I could count, leapt and felt the thrill of floating off, only to feel the disappointment of waking up, being birthed out of the fog.
I can barely walk. I drag myself around the perimeter of the rink by the railings, feeling the wake of people rushing past me. See the exhilaration on their faces. Hear them laughing.
We bought my skates from Goodwill. The white ones, the figure skating ones. I’ve seen other children wearing hockey skates, which look clumsy in comparison.
The children in hockey skates fly past.
I wonder who taught them how to move. If they were born with wings.
I don’t like skating. Or skiing.
It feels like a cruel reminder, and little else. I’m too young to try and realize what exactly I’m being reminded of, other than how earthbound I am.
When I inevitably fall, neither I nor the ice is surprised. We both knew as soon as I stepped foot on its foreign, hard ground that it was just a matter of time.
My puffiness cushions me. Dulls the impact, even though I still have to look up, see the hockey-skate-children zip around the space I’m taking up.
I try to be small as I struggle to my feet. I’ve always taken up too much space. Been slow in my movements, clumsy. Tall and awkward.
I think about the figure skaters again as I force my feet to move. Think about how their tall looks swan-like. How we have the same skates but I have the wrong feet, the wrong body.
I wonder why I never dreamed that I could skate. Could dance over an unforgiving whiteness, rather than repeatedly hurting myself.
I watch my snow-breath, the warmth leaving me as I inch my way forward.
The only reason I’m here is that it’s a school trip. A mandated attempt at normalcy. A mandated performance of how, even with figure skates, I am less figure skater than the hockey-skate-children.
I shuffle around the rink in slow circles until we are called to leave, to step back into the world of friction and anchored steps.
The relief of unlacing my skates, of easing out my feet, is like nothing I’ve ever felt.
Qurat is an engineering student at the University of Guelph and an emerging author. She has work forthcoming or currently in The Evansville Review, Augur Magazine, The Temz Review, Rag Queen Periodical, Yellow Taxi Press, Neologism Poetry, Cabinet of Heed, Awkward Mermaid Lit Mag, Anathema Magazine, and KROS Magazine. She was also recently a finalist in the 2018 Canadian Festival of Spoken Word (CFSW). Find her on Twitter: @DQur4t