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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Funkytown

“Gotta make a move to a town that's right for me
Town to keep me movin', keep me groovin' with some energy
Well, I talk about it, talk about it
Talk about it, talk about it
Talk about, talk about
Talk about movin'”

I can feel the sweat pooling in the small of my back, but the breeze created by sheer speed blows my hair back from my face. A whistle sounds.

“Slow down!”

I keep skating, slowing my pace just slightly – enough to keep the skating rink monitor from making me sit in time-out again for moving dangerously fast through the other skaters. I won’t run into them though. This is what I’m good at. This is my domain. Here, I escape the outside world. Music and movement meld together to create a euphoric high.

Rollerskates are natural extensions of my legs. They make me taller, faster, and more coordinated. No one can catch me when I’m on skates. I’m invincible. Incredible. So, so fast. I secretly enter races with the older girls because I know I can beat them. I can dance on my skates; “Funkytown” generally calls for a two-step or cross-over legwork. I try to remember to move my arms, too, but I have to keep my elbows tucked in and movements small to avoid hitting any of the other skaters who are in my way.

“Gotta move on”

The other skaters are merely obstacles. I have a love-hate relationship with them. Weaving in and out of slower skaters is a game that is simultaneously annoying and exhilarating. Their feeble attempts at skating – really skating – reminds me how powerful and fast I am. Until the whistle blows again.

Fine! I’ll slow down. A little.

The beat of the music pulses not only through my eardrums, but also through my veins. My heart beats in sync with the bass. Each stride is calculated to coordinate with the tempo and mood of the music, selected by the D.J. in his elevated booth, played through speakers hidden in dark corners. Each song becomes a familiar and comforting friend with a unique personality. Joan Jett reminds me that it’s okay to be edgy and love rock ‘n roll. Peter Schilling’s account of the perilous Apollo 13 mission is riveting and profound every time I hear it, and, most importantly, it has a good beat. The J. Geils Band, Gap Band, Joe Jackson, and Journey are just some of the companions who accompany me on my journey along continuous counter-clockwise ovals. Music is key in transforming the roller rink into another dimension and transporting me to another plane of consciousness.

“A-won't you take me to Funkytown?
Won't you take me to Funkytown?”

“Alllllright, lovers…it’s time for couple’s skate. You know what that means! If you’re all alone, cleeeeear the floor now. This is for all you lovebirds out there!”

                I am shocked from my reverie in an instant. The total freedom, the sensation of flying, and feelings of self-confidence are abruptly taken from me as I am reminded that I am utterly alone. I wonder if I will ever look as happy as the couples moving closer together, interlocking fingers, careful to skate side by side without bumping skates and tripping one another. Others place hands on their partner’s shoulders or hips as one skates backwards so the pair can gaze into each other’s eyes as they move in sync. I want that. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to couple-skate.

“Won't you take me to Funkytown?”

At least I exit the floor in style. As I round the last curve before my preferred launching zone, I smirk when I see a girl’s inept attempts to stop the rolling wheels under her shaky legs. She skates right into the step and falls, face-forward, onto the carpet. A boy nearby successfully hops the step but can’t slow his momentum. He crashes into the carpeted wall. Why do they carpet the walls? Does it help with acoustics? Maybe it softens crashes like this one. He laughs it off, of course, but carpet-burn hurts.

A little girl, skating so slowly that she almost isn’t moving, finally makes it to the carpeted step and simply walks off of the rink floor. Her skates are more heavy, awkward boots than they are means of enhanced transportation. My path is clear and my departure imminent. I smoothly step onto the carpet with my right foot, glide a few feet, and then sharply turn my feet, leading with my heels, for a quick stop with a flourish. I realize I’m thirsty and head to the snack bar to wait out the slow songs.

There’s only one drink to drink at the skating rink. Suicide. Pepsi, 7-Up, and Big Red in one cup. It looks like cherry cola and tastes like magic. At 50¢ per cup, I can only afford two on a typical night unless I win a race and get a free drink. I count on winning a race later, so I use my leftover change to buy Chewy Sweet-tarts. Three of the flavors in the pack combine the perfect ratio of sweet to sour, but I throw the lemon away because it’s just too lemony. It’s clear that Journey’s “Faithfully” is winding down because Steve Perry has switched from actual lyrics to “whooa, oh-oh-ooh, whooa, oh-oh-ooh, oh, whooa, oh-oh-oh, oh-whoooooa-oh,” so I skate back to the edge of the rink, ready to reenter as soon as the announcement is made that skating rights for all have returned.

“Gotta make a move to a town that's right for me
Town to keep me movin', keep me groovin' with some energy”

“We now return to all-skate. That’s right, it’s alllll-skate. Everyone, make your way back to the rink!” I don’t need to be told twice. I’m already a quarter of the way around the rink before “Freeze Frame’s” first note. I spend the next couple of hours in a blur of light, sound, and heat. The sound of a race’s starting whistle, the lack of cheering when I win the race, my timid request for the D.J. to play “Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough,” and an offer from a stranger to buy some red and blue capsules in a Ziploc baggie that I quickly decline are the only uncomfortably real moments in my evening. Though songs come and go, it’s “Funkytown” that defines my spirit and connects me to this place. Its refrains repeat in my psyche:

“Gotta move on
Gotta move on
Gotta move on”

As the clock on the back wall nears 10:45, my heart sinks. Eleven o’clock is my curfew. Like Cinderella, I’ll return to the mundane. To lonely silence. To poverty. My self-esteem ebbs in preparation for the real world as the minutes tick by: too fast now. Though I can accurately gauge time by song length, I sneak furtive glances at the clock anyway until it’s time to leave. This time, I exit the floor slowly. Mournfully.

I pull my shoes out of their cubby and unlace borrowed skates. Dirty knock-off Keds with small holes forming over my big toes replace the wheels that take me away from a reality in which I wear shoes like this. My walk to the skate-rental counter is uncomfortable. I am 3-inches shorter than I was a moment ago, and my feet feel too light. Skating in high-speed ovals for the past several hours now creates the sensation that I am moving faster than I really am. All sense of my body’s motion in relation to the ground under my feet is distorted.

This feeling dissipates and is replaced by a throbbing ache in my feet as I steel myself along the walk home. The air is crisp, but the leaves are still in the breezeless night. Loose rocks and asphalt feel like knives underfoot as I walk through my apartment complex. A few lights are on in windows, but my unit is pitch-black. Wishing I could fast-forward to next Friday night, I open the door and step inside.

“A-won't you take me to Funkytown?
Won't you take me to Funkytown?
Won't you take me to Funkytown?
Won't you take me to Funkytown?”


Song lyrics from “Funkytown,” by Lipps, Inc.

2 comments:

  1. Such wonderful writing, you would make a great English teacher! Hope your year is going well :)

    -Jennifer Wang

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, Jenn! All is well here. I hope you're having a wonderful time in college!

    ReplyDelete