Confession: I cried all the way home from the afterparty. That’s like a half-hour of highway driving through tears. It wasn’t our 114-107 squeaker of a loss, though I won’t pretend that wasn’t a disappointment. It wasn’t any drunken after-party drama either. It was just that the whole thing was over. Since sometime in July, I’d been bracing myself, knowing the last Socialites game would be a heartbreaker for me, whether we won it or not.

When I was in high school, I had an odd habit of setting my alarm clock for the middle of the night. The bleating of my Sony Dream Machine would rouse me from my teenage slumber, whence I would reset the alarm for whatever ungodly hour I needed to get up to make my first class. Then I would immediately dive back into blissful unconsciousness. Retrospectively, I realized this strange ritual was my crude way of stopping time. It was oddly comforting, waking up with several hours before I had to get out of bed and face the bleary-eyed morning and the drudgery of school. It made me feel at the time like I could adjust the pace of the world to my liking. Surely, it was also a harbinger of my anxiety-prone adult personality, one that would specialize in futile attempts to control the world with her brain in order to stop. all. the. bad. things. from. happening.

As the final bout of the season loomed old familiar feelings rushed in. I wished for some juju to stop time before our last bout, when I could still look forward to it, before I’d have to face the shapeless months beyond. I know some of my teammates were eagerly anticipating the break, a decline in derby demands. More free weekends. Time to spend with

Photo courtesy of John Wijsman / The doomed protagonist approaches the pack.

their families and enjoy non-derby activities. More freedom to pursue the “life” side of the elusive derby-life balance. The feeling I was having more closely resembled dread. Horror-movie grade apprehension for a doomed protagonist fulfilling her inevitable fate.

Despite the earnest optimism that permeates my writing here, this has not been my favorite year. I’ve been walking around with the pieces of a broken heart rattling around in my chest. If you’ve seen me recently, you might have noticed the hollow jangle. It sounds something like rocks in a soda can. Derby, particularly playing in a competitive bout against another team, is pretty much the one thing that drowns it out. It’s 60 minutes of Zen, of pure freedom from the monkey mind. While practicing is a balm, bouting is a true elixir.

I know I’m not the first person to use derby as a crutch to get through hard times. I won’t be the last. I won’t be the first or last who needs to figure out how to better take all that good stuff off the track and put it into my other life either. And I have the whole off-season to do it. Go.