Posted on July 23, 2013
You go to practice. You go to practice and wobble out onto the track. You wobble out onto the track wearing skates that are a size too big for you, a fact you won’t know until two years later when you buy new ones. You go to practice. You go to practice even though you can’t do T-stops, even though you can only skate 23 laps in five minutes, even though you have no idea what people mean when they talk about “getting a goat.” You go to practice even though you have no friends there. You shop for knee socks and go to practice.
You go to practice on a former ice-skating rink with an uneven floor in a dilapidated park district building. You go to practice in an abandoned store in a shopping mall. You go to practice in a skating rink with rain coming through the roof, with overflowing toilets, with fountains spewing toxic-tasting water and a cotton candy machine that produces a sickening smell on the weekends. You go to practice and do pace lines and pack drills and hitting exercises. You go to practice and work on endurance and communication, and you try to master the basic skills. You go to practice and wonder if you’re getting sick or are just out of shape. Still. You go to practice and pass your 25 in 5.
You go to practice and fall on your tailbone while scrimmaging. You go to practice and fall, shaving the skin off where your thigh connects to the floor. You go to practice and shave the skin off in the exact same spot on the other thigh. You go practice because for some reason you feel like you should go to practice, even though you mostly suck and are afraid you will have to jam. You are not sure you even like this roller derby thing. You go to practice and picture yourself coming out of practice on a stretcher. You wonder who on your league can drive stick shift to get your car home.
You go to practice at a hockey rink off a terribly trafficked highway exit with a delicious floor and air conditioning. You know your skates suck now but you keep going to practice. More things are starting to make sense. You go to practice and see someone break an ankle, the first of several ankle breaks you will witness over the coming years. The ambulance drives off and you keep practicing.
One day you go to practice and get a concussion. You miss a few practices, which helps you realize you might enjoy practice more than you thought you did. That it might be something sort of essential about your life now. You go to practice and start to feel a little more comfortable when someone hands you the jammer panty. At least it doesn’t fill you with dread. It might even be fun sometimes.
You finally get new skates and they hurt so much you want to cry at practice. You get cramps so bad you have to stop skating and physically bend your feet out of a claw position. Maybe you do cry. You wonder if you will ever be even sort of good at derby again. You go to practice. You bout. You go to practice. You bout. You go to meetings. You go to practice.
During your third year, your league gives you an award at the end-of-season party, which shocks and humbles you. You put the award in a frame and go to practice. The days in which you imagine leaving practice on a stretcher have become few and far between.
You go to practice because your friends will be there. You go because you never know if something might click that time. You might do something good. You go because there might be beers afterward. You go because it speeds the workweek along to the weekend. You go to practice to prepare for a bout. You go after a bout, too, to work on the deficiencies that made you lose or maybe to try to capture those things that helped you win, to grab onto them before they slip away. You are dog-tired, but you go to practice.
When your boyfriend dumps you, you go to practice. You go to practice even though you might cry at practice. Then you go to practice because it’s the only place you don’t cry. It seems possible that you can sweat out the bad thing inside you. You skate like the world is ending.
You go to practice even when you don’t want to go to practice. Derby has taken over your life and you wonder if there will ever be a time where you don’t have to go to practice. And sometimes you don’t go. Sometimes you want to stop the feeling of being caught in an endless roundelay of practice, practice, practice. So you just tell yourself: fuck it. You work late. You go to the bar. You lay around your apartment in your underwear, reading magazines and watching serial dramas on your laptop. You go back to practice.
You go to practice because there’s no one waiting for you at home. Or maybe you go to practice because someone is waiting for you at home. You go to practice because what the hell did you do with all your free time before you went to practice? You go to practice because you feel like hitting someone. You go to practice because you feel like being hit. No one asked you to do anything else so you go. Someone asked you to do something you’d rather do, but still you go to practice. You go to practice because you’re hungry to practice. You go to practice because you’re never going to be any younger than you are right now. Because your body isn’t broken yet or because it isn’t broken anymore. You go because it’s hard to imagine life before there was going to practice. You go to practice because you want to feel like you’re flying. Over and over again.
You go to practice, you go to practice. Because that’s what you do.