She could feel a pang in her chest as she skated around the rink, hand-in-hand with him. A huge part of her felt amazed that, here she was, in her mid-twenties, finally holding the hand of a boy as she whizzed around the ice rink. Well, slid along on her crisp blades without falling down is more like it, but she felt like she was flying.
The pang surprised her.
But she knew immediately what it was.
She was happy to be here with him, but the reason she had come was to skate with her friend, the girl who had, in recent weeks and months, miraculously become her closest friend. And the pang hit her just as she skated by her friend, holding the side rail, staring up into the eyes of her on-again-off-again-on-again boyfriend. She missed her friend.
She also realized that this would be life now.
She will never have her friends the way she once had them. Even if all of the current relationships were to fall to pieces, all of the romantic entanglements dissolve, all of the friendships will have irrevocably changed.
She had wondered, cautiously, over the years in which she had no boyfriend, what she might have to give up, to sacrifice in order to have the thing she wanted most. She worried that something would happen, some karmic twist, that would balance out her happiness with the way the rest of the world felt. She had already recognized some of that sacrifice in the relationship with her parents. It simply isn't possible to maintain the same relationship she did when she lived at home and didn't have someone else who required most of her attention. When she lived at home, in those pre-boyfriend days, she really did only have to think about herself. And she often chose to situate herself next to her parents, for an evening in watching movies.
So, there she is, in this ice rink for the very last time before it closes. She looks at her boyfriend, the man holding her hand, the man with whom she argued just a few short hours before, about his desire to spend time with a friend she doesn't like at all. He lets go of her hand so that he can better balance himself on his wobbly, rented skates, and she retreats back into herself.
This is the last time she will skate on this surface. She'd only been to the rink twice (counting this time) since graduating from college, but in her sorority days, she spent more than one Saturday afternoon making "whips" with her friends, twirling, whirling and giggling. She realizes how long it has been since she really laughed with her friends, since those mostly carefree days of college. The worries she had before graduation were nothing compared to the big, weighty worries she has now, worries she tries not to register, believing, half-heartedly that God will sort everything out for her.
She's still awkward with him after their fight. She feels better about things, but it's hard to come back to their comfortable ways after she's told him some, but not all of what she was feeling. Their conversation is stilted, as if she's speaking with someone who doesn't know the language, or maybe it's her who doesn't know the language.
At last, his ankles can't take any more wobbling, and he goes to sit down next to her friend's boyfriend and another friend's husband. The men can't hack the somewhat graceful moves required to ice skate.
Her girlfriends join her on the ice. They talk, and they laugh. She fills them in on the fight. Their conversation is fluid and easy, and she misses her friends so much, even though they are right there. With a sudden, fierce intensity, she misses college and the sorority. She misses having someone to talk to just next door, or an IM away. She misses late night conversations, midnight runs to Safeway for ice cream, the lightness and freeness of being young, single and away from home. She misses setting her own schedule. She misses not having friends who have gotten married. She misses not having to worry about the big things like whether leaving her job would be career suicide.
They keep skating around. She hears more about her friend's latest, hopeful job possibility, and she's happy. She's happy to see a smile on her closest friend's face.
The other, a married friend, advises them both, and assures her that the right she had with him will be repeated. It is reassuring to hear that their argument is one that will repeat itself, that it's the kind of argument only real couples can have.
The pack of people on the ice thins. The music on the stero jumps erratically, and they can sense the evening coming to a close. The married girl jumps off the rink to try to persuade the men back on the ice for one final lap.
Out they come, and she's happy to see him, happy to hold his hand, but still just a bit melancholy that is presence means she's done having that easy, genuine conversation with her friends. She misses easy conversation not laced with arsenic.
They finish their lap. They leave the ice.
And she steps back into her life.