I love to skate. And so long as I’m skating counter-clockwise, I’m not half bad, looping around the rink with a freedom and fluidity that dupes me into regarding myself as graceful. Which I’m not. Believe you me, I’m not.
But on the ice, crossing right foot over left, right foot over left, I’m taller, less klutzy, more confident. I know how to move without crashing. I know how to stop without falling. And I know where I’m going: to the left.
Today at the Empire State Plaza, I found this westward motion strangely reassuring. As my youngest and I tooled around the smallish oval alongside the bundled, happy crowd, I felt the crushing grip of the week behind me loosen its cinch. This was a one-way street. I either skated counter-clockwise or not at all. I couldn’t just go renegade and skate to the right, not without toppling gooey young couples and retirees on vintage skates and pre-schoolers wobbling on double-runners, their parents wobbling along behind them.
How natural, after a loved one dies, to look back and log the days without her. My best friend died on Monday; I’ve spent six days Pam-less, so far. So I backspin to the last time we gabbed, or the last time I glimpsed her, saying goodbye, or that day we kicked the soccer ball around with our boys, flushed with exertion.
But we live on an orb that rotates counter-clockwise. It presses to the left with an insistence that feels impossibly cruel. And yet, and yet. It keeps us whirling forward. We have no choice. We go to work, chat with colleagues. We go home, make supper for our children. Later on, a little too much later, we go to bed.
And in between, if we’re lucky, we skate.