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Free Verse: “In Circles”

Written rink-side at Pentagon Row.
Arlington, Va.
Feb. 12, 2010

Fifth grade. Olean, NY. We showed up by 7 p.m., minutes before the window curtain went up and a blond high-schooler took our dollar bills for two hours of ice skating. We boys held hands with the girls and played out our destructive tendencies, mostly tossing around the orange cones and hip-checking each other. Most of us saw time in the rink’s penalty box for unruly behavior. Toward the end of each night, talk turned to which couples would tongue kiss in the shadows outside the rink. We hurried to pry off our hockey skates, slip into cold sneakers and run out the side doors. Within minutes, a crowd gathered around to witness two innocents, wracked with nerves, mouthing each other clumsily. Not one of us questioned the absurdity of this because we were kids, and kids do absurd things. We were mystified by whatever obscure desires 11-year-olds have, wandering into dark corners together and scattering like insects when headlights from our parents’ vehicles crept a little too close.