The Perfect Skate (a true story)

Stretching along the back boundary of the family farm was the bush, a woodlot of mixed trees and wildlife. Widthwise, it wasn’t a long distance until you hit the highway, but lengthwise, one could imagine being in a forest.

It had been an unseasonably mild winter with more rain than snow, though still enough to make getting around difficult on foot. Saturday, my father mentioned over dinner that when he had gone back there, things were frozen flatly, the trees keeping the worst of the snow out.

The next afternoon I slipped out of the house after lunch with my brother’s old hockey skates. While I did love to skate, it only happened perhaps once a year with school, and my hand-me-down leather skates were not much in the way of support, either for my ankles or self-esteem.

I followed the path of the tractor tires through the field, alert for fence posts jutting out. The sun shone brightly blinding off ice crusted snowy fields. At last I arrived to the spot where my father had been.

I had hoped for a small area that I could just skate around a bit. What I had not imagined that within the cool silence of boughs heavy with snow that the entire bush was frozen over, it’s surface as pristine as any zamboni cleaned rink. Some areas closer to the trees were white and brittle, a thin veneer hiding hollows beneath, but the other parts were dark and solid. Even should I break through, the deepest would be to my knee (the logic of youth not accounting for the need to slog back to the house in the cold).

The only sounds in the bush that day were the echo of my skates, and the occasional chirping of disturbed sparrows and squawking jays. Staying to the centre of the lengthwise path, I could imagine countless stories of Snow Witch queens, and fairy tale forests. I glided from spot to spot, the occasional push of a skate enough to carry me slowly through the trees, where only a few sparkling flakes floated freely around me, like being in a snow globe.

I carried a stick, to wield against imaginary foes (as well as to test any suspicious spots that might break beneath me), and my skates and imagination carried me through the afternoon down and up the length of the land until at last I had to leave my icy kingdom and return home.

It never froze over quite like that again. Even by the next weekend the forest floor was drifted over, impassable by skates. Sometimes in winter my warmest memory is that cold day, silence sliced by booted blade against ice, a moment of joy gliding over the past.

faults & traits & madness

I remember when my cousin came to stay for a week, and on Saturday night we were watching “The Littlest Hobo”.  I had been reading in the StarWeek tv guide magazine that very day that there were several dogs used as the Hobo on any given episode.  When C said “boy, that’s a smart dog”, I told him about the article.

He shrugged and said “still a pretty smart dog” and we continued watching.  No biggie to him.

While my cousin is younger than me, he was still closer in age than I am to the next sibling up from me, and the kind of stuff I told him was exactly the same thing that they told me.  When he went to the bathroom, I got blasted by my siblings how you don’t tell little kids things like that, and it was like telling them there was no Santa Claus.

I knew where that browbeating came from.  Our family hadn’t been raised to believe in Santa.  As far as I was aware, everyone knew there was no Santa, except for my friend, Derek, who I told on the bus when we were in Grade 4, and he had complete crying jag all the way to school, and I was the asshole, because all the older kids were worried that the younger kids had heard me say it as well.

Huge biggie.

I remember the bus driver, Ellen, looking up in the rearview, alternately amused at first, and then saddened.  It hurt worse than what what some of the older kids were whispering at me.  After Derek was let off, and the the attention of the older kids went from trying to console Derek to berating me, she finally stated coldly, that Santa wasn’t the only one seeing if people were being naughty or nice.

I still have those “thoughtlessly being helpful” moments of crushing someone’s idea with unsolicited information…as opposed to purposefully crushing someone’s idea with unsolicited information; or inadvertently crushing someone’s idea with solicited information.  It’s still one of those faults about myself I really don’t like, causing countless ohno seconds… that moment after the thought is already partway out the mouth, and I’m thinking “oh no…how do I turn this about?”

Because of a need to try and keep up with my siblings, over the years I’ve developed a drive for learning a little bit about everything, enough to keep up with the conversation.  Mind you, I think part of it also came from my father, who read the encyclopedia for entertainment, and loved documentaries.  He liked to learned, and still does…as do I.

It’s a common trait that we both have:  learning something new – mostly outside of the realm of necessary, as opposed to need to learn for work (though not always) – is enjoyable.  Facts are interesting.  They are also the arsenal of the introvert unable to engage in social chit-chat, yet wanting interaction…whip out a relevant fact, and you are still contributing to conversation patterns.

The other side of the opening stories is that childhood feeling of needing to be more grown-up than I was.  Coupled with that was the unspoken (sometimes whispered about) directive “pretend everything is just fine and keep a smile on your face or else”.  The final ingredient?  I have always been aware since I was very little that I was different but didn’t really comprehend what that difference was until the ripe old age of 7, when one of the kids at school called me a faggot.  Someone giggle, shocked, and explained he thought I was a “homo”.

With part of a word, I could look it up, until I figured it out.  The encyclopedia in the house was still using the “abnormal psychology” type of definition for ‘homosexual’.  And I knew from my staunch upbringing that it was an abomination, and they all went to hell, no matter what.

There is nothing quite like the feeling of knowing you have been completed fucked over by life at age 7, with no hope of redemption in the afterlife.  AWESOME.  I know some of my sibling felt that I was a goody-two shoes growing up, but how else are you supposed to redeem your worth as a kid?  And the more you tried to hide that you are different, and the more you try and pretend everything is all good, the more the vultures circled on the playground, innately sensing different and using it cruelly as only children can do.

In spite of all that I promised myself long ago:  I’m going to move to the city, and escape these country ass-wipes; I’m going to meet people like me (i.e. gay); and I’m going to start living my life.  And I can be that mad, quirky, crazy, weird, fun-loving, strange – add your adjective, if you’ve met me – person, because gosh darnit, there are some really nice people I like that rather like that aspect of me!

So I’ve moved to the city, I’ve met people like me, but I haven’t started living my life.  Only for a short time, when I jumped down the rabbit hole to follow my love, and things got curiouser and curiouser…but then that stopped.

Now I’m trying to get it things restarted, by checking the map of where I’ve been, so I can try and remember where I was going…or pick a new direction to take.

(Note:  I’m not nailing myself to the cross by showing the world what a martyr I was, nor revealing secrets for the sake of entertainment.  There are people in my social circle who have had far, far worse lives – but those aren’t my stories to tell – and there are some things in my life I will truly never take pen to paper over.  My twisted logic is, if I take all the dark and horrible secrets that I’ve been keeping locked up and let them out, then they simply become facts.  Facts are simple, neutral things.  Secrets hold dark power, and destroy lives.  I will not be destroyed.)