I hadn't seen snow since I was in my single digits, and the last time I visited this new, big-little city, I was sorely disappointed with all the sunshine; if I wanted sun, I could've stayed my ass in Texas. But on our anniversary it seemed as if all that hope from the last trip culminated in the white lattice falling from the sky. I may have squealed in glee, I'm not sure, but I do remember taking a big handful of snow and letting it melt in my mouth, just like I used to as a kid and was warmed inside by the nostalgia.
"Happy anniversary," he'd said, with a big smile.
If I were the spontaneous sort, I would've sat in the middle of the hotel parking lot and soaked up the ambiance the chill and inner joy that the snow was providing, but we'd made tentative plans with a few associates to go boldly where we hadn't gone (together at least) before. We were prepared to make fools of ourselves on a skating rink, and he and I were equally geeked to get there.Plus, I'd spent an agonizingly long time getting ready, and didn't want to make us any later than we probably were.
Now, the thing about driving in New Jersey is that you don't realize how long it's going to take until you're on the road. We'd been following his friend's car for so long, I began to wonder if I'd somehow traced behind the wrong car and we were on our way to a "Hills Have Eyes" situation. Upon mentioning that to him, the terror on his face made me laugh. Thankfully, we arrived at our location, after passing a few pastures and hamlets untouched by time.
The rink itself wasn't much; the building was small and a little shoddy with character. Long discarded spiderwebs swayed in the breeze from the cracks between the front doors and the concrete under our feet was cracked. Slightly rusted doors separated the entrance from the actual rink. Paint cans and wooden beams sat near the door as if someone had left for lunch and never came back to finish their odd job. I loved it.
I stood in front of him, keeping my feet as far apart as his, however, him being a foot taller or so it was harder than it looked for my small stature. Realizing I was mimicking him, he posted up in a stance that nearly put me in a split. Our chuckles filled the small space and we huddled up for warmth, or in my case, for the closeness. That's when it started: the bubble.
You ever stop and notice couples? Sometimes you'll see them with their friends or family, or even with each other but separate, and they're simply part of a crowd, and then, suddenly, they aren't anymore. They make a distinction between the world and them, forming an invisible barrier as if they're being filmed for a romantic comedy montage scene. The people around them subconsciously part, giving them room to pass, their intimacy obvious even at a peripheral level. They've made a bubble.
The first thirty minutes or so, it was just us, the folks we came with, and the people who worked there on the rink. The footwork of those people was insane. One guy, simply given the moniker of "Cool Mothefucker" seemed to walk and skate at the same time, another man literally moonwalked on his skates. Me? I stayed as close to the wall as I possibly could that first thirty minutes; I didn't want to make a fool of myself in front of him, them or the experts by falling.
And then the DJ did something fantastic. He played a song I knew and loved, that put me at ease. It was a lot easier to skate after that, a lot easier to loosen up and have fun. Up to that point I'd been skating alone, but when looking behind me, there he was, almost as if keeping watch over me that whole time to make sure I didn't fall on my ass. I held out my hand, and invited him to make a fool of himself with me.
The couple we'd come with had made hanging with them a little awkward by the arguing and passive aggressive daggers they were staring at each other. Truth be told, even if they hadn't been in a cold war, he and I would have created our own space. Sometimes (more often than I would have liked) my bad shins forced me off the rink and to a seat, but seeing the experts, and my lanky steady, sailing by to increasingly awesome tunes fueled my fun and kept me smiling.
An hour went by and the place was packed. Adults and teens alike had flooded the rink and were skating backwards, doing flips, two-stepping - it was something out of a cliche'd dance movie but much more interesting as I got to imagine the plots and back stories of every skater myself. For instance, there was one skater who, every time he passed, would pop-lock. He wore a throwback buttoned down jersey short set and knee high socks. His skates matched his outfit and he had on a 80's inspired gold chain. My dude's eyes lit up every time he saw Jersey Guy and he whispered that he wanted to be just like him when he got older - fun, free and unapologetic about it. I said he could be all those things, just not like that, and certainly not publicly.
Another hour rolled by at which point my shins were on fire and swollen, but I didn't let that stop me. Okay, yeah, I did, but I was still having fun. I'd lost track of my group and instead, sat alone and made up stories for all the skaters and watched Tarzan breeze by and try not to get run down by the aggressive skaters.
When couple skate started, even Jersey Guy had found his steady and they rolled, dipped and slid right on by. I was sad I couldn't get up there with them, but to my surprise Tarzan came off the rink and sat with me. The music got more and more romantic, culminating in a song I've loved since I was a little girl. And that's when it happened: I was in the bubble.
Maybe I'd been in it that whole time and had to take a cue from the soundtrack of our life that was going on to notice. Maybe I'd been purposely oblivious to it to not get schmaltzy. Whatever the case, when you notice you're in the bubble, everything seems to glow. Arguably, it could've been the strobe light hitting the disco ball, but for the story's sake, we'll say it was love that had made my world gleam silver.
We didn't need to stay any longer than that. It seemed like that was the moment we'd been leading up to, he and I. Now, that's not to say the other places we went or things we did didn't seem like the type of things couples did or that we weren't in so many bubbles for the entire trip, but this one made us feel like a fairytale to me. So often with long distance relationships the time you spend together, everything seems special and dipped in honeyed gold and whatever, but because of my analytic mind, or maybe in spite of it, I knew that day was something truly important and special. Not only did the time feel golden, but I felt golden. I felt beautiful and delicate and all the things a young girl hopes to feel when she first falls in love.
I went ahead and took our skates to the counter and looked behind me to see Tarzan and Jersey Guy yukking it up and shaking hands. Turns out, Jersey Guy had been skating since he was a toddler and did it out of love for the music, love for the sport, and truth to himself. He encouraged Tarzan that, if he found something he loved, to never stop doing it. I guess there are worse people Tarzan could aspire to be like.
Whether this story tells you more about me, him, or us, I'm not sure. Whether it restores your hope in love, spontaneity, or even snow, I can't be certain. I can be sure, though, that for me, it restores something in me long broken. It restores that belief that fairy tale things do happen to ordinary girls. It encloses my former jaded self in it's sweetness and warmth, forcing the me under all the previous hurts to resurface. Finally, most important, it reassures me that the love I've always wanted, more so the one I've always needed, is indeed out there in abundance, and I truly, finally deserve to be the girl, smiling and strolling inside the bubble.
*New format sponsored simply by my need to write a story.