the short story project


Maeve Cunningham

Rainbow Rink

I have a secret superpower: I can leave my body whenever I want. The downside? I don’t know how to get back in. Sometimes it’s days, or maybe weeks, before I‘m back in my skin. It’s like being a ghost. I watch myself get ready, throwing on the cleanest clothes I can find in the morning, I watch myself get through an entire day at school… desperately trying to sleep at night… reading…eating. But sometimes, I don’t have to watch myself. I can close my eyes and pretend I don’t know what’s happening. That’s the easiest thing to do sometimes. There’s less pain that way.

Right now, I’m keeping my eyes wide open. The lights at the roller rink are flashing and they’re all different colors, like a rainbow. I like the way it reflects off my glitter eyeshadow and lipgloss. I’m glad I went with the silver glitter instead of the pink, that would’ve looked tacky.  The silver catches every rainbow flash, reflecting the reds and purples and blues. It’s like I’m part of the light show. My lips are so shiny from the gloss, they pick up the subtle hues, the pinks and the yellows. I am the rainbow lights.

My hair is pin straight, all the way down my back. I wear it like a blanket. Maybe I should cut it, but it feels like my own personal invisibility cloak. It’s warm, like the homemade quilt my mother gifted me on my tenth birthday, and just as easy to hide underneath. It’s such a pretty blonde shade too- like pale strawberries. My uncle thinks it would be a shame to cut it. He thinks it’s pretty like this too. I’m his “Pretty little strawberry,” he says. I can see my shoulders getting tense, maybe I should cut it off, cut it off, cut it off—

When I open my eyes again, I’m still standing at the edge of the roller rink. My friends skate by me to the rhythm of the music. Tyler requested some ABBA song that sounds vaguely familiar. I nod my head to the beat, trying to look like I’m too cool to skate and I’d rather bop to the music. In reality, I have no damn clue how to skate. I never learned how to roller skate, roller blade, bike ride, skateboard, anything really growing up. We didn’t have a backyard or a safe street to practice on. I was too clumsy anyways. I would’ve fallen and broken something, I’m sure of it. There’s nothing I hate more than blood and pain.

I probably look pretty stupid just loitering on the outskirts, rainbows shooting from my eyelids. Sarah wanted us to come here as a way to bond: I guess we’d all gotten sick of our daily habit of smoking weed in her family’s basement. We kept trying to come up with new activities that would keep us together, create memories before we went our separate ways at the end of the summer. Everyone would be going off to college come September and I’d still be here. I mean, I did get in to a state university. I could live on campus. I just couldn’t picture myself making it all the way there. If I do, it’ll be one hell of a surprise.

In my group’s attempt to secure our relationships before everyone left, we’d: gone to the movies with food and wine hidden in bags; sneaked into the beach in the middle of the night; walked through graveyard;, and broken in to the town’s local swimming pool. Now here we are, roller skating. Or rollerblading? Is there even a difference? Whatever. As long as I’m with them and out of the house, fine with me.

It’s not that I don’t like being home. I love my mom. I love my little brother. But right now the whole house is bogged down with death. Mom’s brother, Jack, died the day I graduated high school. Good fucking riddance. I’d never forgive him. I’d never find sympathy for him, even if he did die choking on his own vomit in some back alley. I hope he’s burning in hell. Burn, burn, burn—

The next time I open my eyes, Joey has skated his way to me. I wonder if my eyeshadow is like the mating call of those birds of paradise. He’s leaning on the pole next to me, smiling and cracking jokes. I laugh and toss my hair, pretending to hear whatever he’s saying. I like Joey. I like Joey a lot. He’s easy to talk to, he’s got the biggest, greenest eyes I’ve ever seen, and he always smells like the ocean.

Joey’s holding his hand out to me now. I never noticed before but he’s got really beautiful hands. They look so soft, non-threatening. There’s not a cut or a scratch. I could trace all his veins if I wanted to. They’re nothing like Uncle Jack’s calloused, giant hands, always too rough and too tight—

“It’s nice,” Joey’s saying when I open my eyes again. His eyes pleading, a playful smirk on his lips. “The glitter.”

I smile, pretending my eyes were shut to show him the makeup I almost regretted wearing.  He offers both of his gorgeous hands to me. I can’t resist. I slip my own two hands, black nails chipped, nails bitten down, skin slightly cracked, into his.

I’m no longer leaning against the side of the rink. Joey has pulled me forward as a slower throwback song plays. We’re inching closer and closer to the center of the rink as the colors flash around us. I can’t stop looking at his hands holding mine

I’m in my body again. I’m no longer looking at myself and Joey, all I see is him and his hands. His eyes look multicolored in the lights and I can’t tell if I enjoy studying his face or his hands more. There’s so much to explore.

We move slowly and carefully. I feel wobbly on my feet and I want to panic, but if I ever show a sign of fear- biting down hard on my lip, hard enough to draw blood- Joey lightly squeezes my hand. It’s gentle. It’s a reminder that he’s there, we’re together, and nothing bad can happen here. No one exists but us. It feels like everyone in the rink has disappeared. The outside world is melting, too. There’s no small town outside of the rink, there’s no home to go to, Uncle Jack never existed, it’s just me and Joey. Me and Joey, in a rink, holding hands, skating in circles as the rainbow lights flash around us.

Is there a way to give up a superpower? I never want to leave my body again. I want to feel all of this. Forever. I don’t want to watch and breathe and shut my eyes. I want to feel. I can feel the heaviness of the glitter on my eyelids and the stickiness of the lip gloss that smells like watermelon. I didn’t notice that before. I can feel the softness of my hair on my shoulders and I can occasionally get a whiff of the coconut conditioner I stole from Walmart last month with Sarah. I can feel my thumbs rubbing circles into the back of Joey’s hands. I can feel the thumping of my heart, like a wild bird in a cage threatening to break free as Joey smiles at me.

I could stay here, in this roller rink, in this body- my body, forever.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *