Uncle Genius Went Roller Skating

Her favorite time of year is winter.  She loves winter clothes.  She loves scarves and gloves.  She loves wool pea coats.  And wet umbrellas.  And people scrambling on the bus trying to dry off and get warm.  She loves fires in the fireplace.  And hot chocolate.  And being under the weight of so many blankets with the sheets cool on her feet.

And she now loves to go roller skating in the winter time.  Sometimes she wonders if there is anything she loves that ever just came from her.  She is positive that her love of winter is merely an extension of her love for Genius.

She is positive she must have loved something at some point in her life that wasn’t because of someone else that she loved.  Something, she thinks, must have at one time belonged to her and to her alone.  But she’s sure it doesn’t anymore.

It was a cold winter day.  It was actually a snow day.  She was getting ready to go outside and play when Genius came to the house.  He was so tall and lanky, and so awkward in his body.  Ichabod Crane like.

He asked her what she was getting ready to do and she said to go to her friend’s house who had a good hill and they were going to slide down it in the snow.

He said, no no no.  Let me take you somewhere cool.  Some place no one goes to today.  Let me show you something really radical.

She couldn’t help but be excited.  Her stomach tingled a little bit.

They drove three towns away.  In the snow.  And ice.  She never once got scared.

Looking back on it now, she thinks her mother must have been crazy to let her go with Uncle Genius in that weather.  Down off the mountain where they lived, into town, onto the freeway, sliding the whole way.  But they made it.

It was a huge roller skating rink. It was old.  It looked like it had been built in the 1950’s

They walked in and disco played loudly.  There were about 6 other people there.  They rented the skates and made their way to the center of the rink.

 As they got onto the rink, Uncle Genius’ legs went everywhere but on the floor.  He looked like a cartoon cat starting to run. He held onto the sides and pulled himself around the circle.  She, on the other hand, was great at skating, and flew around the circle.  She liked to skate backwards too, and she knew it impressed Uncle Genius.

She finally got him to come out into the center with her. They held hands.  He struggled to stay upright.  They started to go a little faster.  His legs would spread out and then he’d pull them back together and would stand very upright for a bit, then he’d lose control again.  But they were making it around the rink.  They started going even faster.  She was laughing at him, her goofy Genius.

She was also painfully aware of the strange looks Genius evoked from people.  He just wasn’t good at being in this world.  He didn’t really know how to dress himself.  His hair was always just a little too long, and a little too messy.  He never had a beard, but he seemed also to never shave.  He didn’t know how to talk to people.  He didn’t know “how to be simple” he told her once.  She loved that he was the only person in the world that she could talk to.  She could tell him anything and he would listen and respond to her like everything she thought and felt was real, was important.  That it mattered.  It mattered not just to him, but to the world, that she thought and felt these things.  He asked her questions.  He argued with her.  Because he valued her.  But when they were in public it was hard sometimes.  She was embarrassed sometimes to be around him.  She wanted him to be him, only be more normal.  She didn’t want people to look at him the way they did.  She didn’t want them to hurt him.  And she didn’t like that she was ashamed, because she knew that hurt him.   She didn’t mean to be ashamed.  But the stares hurt her too.  She didn’t know how to explain to these people how amazing he was, and how special he was.  At once she wanted to disappear, and she wanted to defend him fiercely.

She remembers that now, sitting at her kitchen table.  She wishes she could go back and erase her shame.  And stare back at those people with fierce pride because they were the fools.  She wants to go back there.  And take that away.  And be more courageous for Uncle Genius.  He deserved her courage.  She cries a little bit.  And apologizes to his ghost.

As they were circling the rink and getting up to an almost average skating speed something happened to Uncle Genius’ feet.  They betrayed him in the most spectacular way.  And slowly.  It didn’t happen fast.  His left foot slowly moved over to the right.  And his right foot moved left.  But he tried to keep skating anyway.  He was still holding her hand. Then he fell forward, his feet splaying out behind him.  He did a sort of flip at that moment, and ended up on his butt. She had only laughed a few times in her life the ways she laughed at him in that moment.

Here’s the magic of his beautiful crash.  He never once let go of her hand, and he made sure that she never fell.  He held her up the entire time.

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