i was in sixth grade and our middle school walked to the nearby roller-skating rink. don't remember why - although it probably had something to do with "culture building" or some type of incentive. i knew this place well. since i'd been at the small private Christian school since i was three, i frequented the run-down building next to the nursing home where we volunteered.
for awhile, i just skated with my friends. four corners, hokey-pokey and a mix of activities filled our afternoon. i quietly sang the lyrics of the songs under my breath - good girls didn't know songs like "groove is in the house" or "water runs dry" or "dream lover." every once in awhile i'd glance at a girl friend and we'd giggle. we all knew what we were waiting for - couple skate.
i remember skating off the rink. i remember collapsing onto a bench laughing with some friends. i remember hearing whispers of who was going to ask who and i remember wondering if anyone would bother asking me.
i don't remember what happened next, but i do know my friends ended up leaving for a second. while they were gone, the dj announced couple skate. my heart stopped and skipped a beat before starting again. i closed my eyes and forced my self to breathe easy. when i opened them, a teacher stood before me. leaning down, he offered his hand and a smile.
"you want to skate with me?" he asked.
i stared at him for a split second. no part of me wanted to say yes. every part of me screamed no. he made me uncomfortable. i remember glancing at his left hand and seeing a ring shimmer against the light and wondered if his wife would mind him skating with a middle school girl. my stomach turned and i glanced around for other people - anyone. it seemed as though every single person was already skating. alone and not wanting to go against an authority figure, i shrugged and whispered, "sure."
i hated every minute of that couple skate. i can't remember the song, but i remember being close to tears the entire time. i remember my hands sweating and his firm grasp of my fingers and the way he led me off the rink with a wink and a smile. i remember wanting to throw up and hiding my face at the laughter and jokes from other students.
how do you defend yourself when you don't know how to say no?
it wasn't until the next day that i found out the boy i was madly crushing over was going to ask me to skate with him until he saw me with teacher.
i felt used. cheap. guilty and stupid.
i remembered this on the way to work today, and suddenly things crystallized. the theme of my life stretched before me and even though i didn't like it, i still knew it to be true. i hadn't thought about this moment in years - at least not in the way i did this morning.
for the first time i recognized the oddity of the situation - the dots connecting like a cloudy picture i'd rather leave undeveloped.
because now i know: the theme was set in place long before this moment. my words collapsed in my throat the second my teacher asked me to skate. in my mind, i had no other choice.
and this morning as i drove to work, i couldn't help but ask my heart where in the world did she learn such lies.
i'm not sure if i'm ready to hear the answer.