Do it for Her
When I was five or six, my aunt Alice took me to a local women’s soccer match. I was too young to understand most of what was going on. Still, it was fun to watch the teams flick in patterns around the field, and I cheered when Alice cheered.
After the game ended, we went out to the turf so I could get my program autographed. The first player I approached was tall and dirt-streaked, with a stringy brown ponytail. She made me kneel down and placed the program on my back while she signed it. I can exactly remember the toothbrush-bristle prickle of grass beneath my knees, the noise of paper flattening onto my windbreaker, the pressure of the pen against my shoulder blades. She asked me my name, and I told her. She thanked me for coming to the game.
Stitch up your skates. You must trust them
without thinking twice. Breathe in the stink
of your sweat-fried padding & give thanks
for the way it holds your bones intact.
Hit the rink. If your wheels strike the tile
with the clean sound of a well-greased cog
whirring in a machine, set your breath to it.
Ball your hands into fists. Once, Bunny fell
with her fingers out & they were smashed
like soft roots under another girl’s wheels.
Every skater has an origin story. I fell in love with roller derby a little over a year ago, when I went with a friend to see Assault City play in a local bout. Even though the venue and audience were small, the game was electric to watch. The leaping and dodging, the teammates who flung one another across the track, the strange and exciting sight of women’s bodies smashing into one another at high speeds—it clicked with me in a fundamental, primal way.
“Maybe I’ll try out,” I said, half-joking, on the car ride back.