True Ice: A Memoir

I have never skated on such perfect ice, as pure as lead crystal and as hard, but receptive to my skate, my stride, as if friction had been eliminated and there is no loss of energy between leg thrust and forward motion, the turns easy, (except the first, when my imagining the breakaway got ahead of my feet and I tripped over myself and landed an embarrassed heap).

It is as if, as if 30 years had disappeared and I was a lithe, lean boy, all body and no mind, and not a round middle aged man squinting without his glasses to see the other end of the ice; just limbs harmonized and agile; as if there there were no wobble to my left crosscuts, just a perfect arc you could trace with a compass, no ache in my knees, no worry that the pain in my left arm is a heart attack and not a bruise from falling, that energy doesn’t run out and late does not keep getting earlier; that I am and we are just flesh and no responsibilities in pure playful motion, all of us together, for no one and nothing, just to feel the wind of the sprint as we skate, with nothing pressing after this hour away, just pure playing bodies, smiling, laughing at the bottom of the bowl of 6000 empty seats; just the ice, the puck, the back and forth and up and down of the play, the adrenaline and sweat, the jerseys still mismatched and uncoordinated, but the passes a bit crisper, the back checking more determined, the desire for one more rush stronger.

I have never wanted to beat the defenceman to the puck as badly as on that last rush, to hang on to it rather than pass, to drive just a bit harder to the net, head fake, to score, not for the fun of scoring but for the fun of making the maximum effort, to feel my lungs and legs at the limit.

There was a collective fantasy of moving faster, of being at full speed with just one stride, of being able to play on and on and on; as if each rush left me just as strong as before, but by 12:45 lactic acid reality is back, and my arm does hurt from the fall, and my feet feel cramped, and my knees burn, and I am not a lithe lean boy, and I have to teach in the morning.

2 thoughts on “True Ice: A Memoir

  1. There was something inspiring about the empty bowl, the dark jumbotron and the beautiful (and I mean beautiful) ice that caused every fibre of this middle-aged menopausal body to forget itself for 90 minutes and become the centre of the intramural law school hockey team again.

    And yet, given the choice, I would not be that twenty year old woman again, because she was strong but not powerful, clever but not wise.

    But I am grateful that I can still find 90 minutes of joy and grace in physical abandon. As well as for the invention of the foam roller and the epsom salt.

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