Rec Center Memories – A Moment of Glory
I’m sure everyone remembers their first crush. That first person who seemed so perfect that if you could only be in their presence, you’d be much happier. Your heart fluttered if they ever glanced at you. It was painful and magical all the same.
My first crush went to the rec center with me. She was two grades above me which put her out of my normal social zone. I mean, a fourth grader couldn’t date a sixth grader could he? I could only dream.
I don’t recall her name, but let’s call her Stacey. Stacey was that sweet head cheerleader, not the bitchy one. She was blonde, had a great smile, and was incredible friendly. She just seemed perfect in every way. All of the boys had a crush on her but I kept mine pretty quiet. I knew I wasn’t worthy, so there was no sense in torturing myself.
Every Friday and Saturday night, the skating rink was the place to be on base if you were a teenager, but during the week it was us rec kid’s playground. We watched movies, danced, took pictures on motorcycles, played dodge ball and soccer, and occasionally skated. Since I had never roller skated before, I was grouped up with the other non-skaters at one end of the rink for some training and practice. Each week when we skated, I’d attempt to keep my balance and get somewhere in the most illogical way man has ever devised to travel. My little brother took to it instantly, and was out of the non-skater group within a week, but me… I embraced my role as the kid who fell down too much.
Eventually they dissolved our little training group and we were thrown in with everyone else. We’d all be skating in a huge circle, and someone would call out a certain move to be performed and us non skaters would just look at each like, “We can barely stand the hell up. There is no way I’m going to try to lift one leg off the floor.”
It wasn’t a bad time, since we just got lapped a lot and tended to stick with ourselves in the back. So I wouldn’t go as far as to say we dreaded skating time, but we’d much have preferred to be left to play video games in the lobby.
One day, some Satanist decided that our comfort as skating losers could no longer be tolerated. A massive bracket was put up on the wall, breaking down a roller skating competition to crown the best rollerskater from both the girls and the boys. I assumed they would have left me off, but the size of the bracket had me doubting that. After that buzzing crowd disappeared, I walked up to take a look and saw that I was to face off against Roberto, the fastest skater for the boys.
It was like the first round of a major sport playoffs, where you take the best team and put them against the weakest team. What the heck did I have to prove? I was lucky to make it a lap and not fall down, there was no way I was going to even be slightly competitive with him. It bothered the heck out of me, especially since we were to have our match later that afternoon. I knew I had to either get out of this or come up with a plan.
My request to be pardoned was denied, I guess due to some strange lesson about life not being fair. So as I slowly laced up my skates, I decided to take the next step and plead my case with Roberto. We weren’t close friends, but we got along fine. I figured maybe he’d let me win, or at least not embarrass me.
I guess he saw the desperation in my eyes as I asked him not to annihilate me in front of everyone, especially since Stacey was up next and would surely be watching this duel. He smiled and with a very compassionate heart, he told me to do my best and he would make sure I looked good.
The whistle blew and I kicked those rubber wheels into the ground trying to get a decent push off, but instead nearly fell over. I rounded turn one and was coming out of two when I heard a thunderous roar in a building with no more than ten people in it at the time. As I made it to a straightaway I was finally able to drop my concentration some and look around. I realized I was winning!
The next turn put me in front of my fellow racers who were due up next. I heard them chanting Brandon, and I looked up to see the girl of my dreams, Stacey going absolutely nuts cheering for me. I could hear her yelling over the top of everyone else, and I nearly wrecked looking at her and trying to process everything.
That cheering went on one more lap and it looked like the massive underdog might pull off the greatest upset in rec center roller skating history. My face hurt from smiling so hard, and I tried to soak in every second of it with what little bit of mental power that wasn’t being used to keep me from breaking another limb.
As we neared the start/finish line for the third and final lap, Robert skated up to me and matched my pathetic speed. He looked over with a big smile and said, “I told you I’d make you look good” and then blistered on past me finishing the lap before I even made it back around to turn three.
Roberto went on to win the boys division, while I got dismissed to play pool with the rest of the losers. But for that one lap I was the hero. I got so many cheers and congratulations after my race while attempting that dangerous transition from skating rink to carpet, I almost fell over yet again.
Stacey came over and told me how proud she was and what a great job I had done. I stood there amazed and I’m pretty sure speechless. She smiled and went back to her friends, while I attempted to record that entire encounter in my memory forever.
I’m pretty sure that was the first and last thing she ever said to me.