I skate among kids from broken families brimming with broken dreams whose grade point averages depend on their mom’s paychecks as hotel housekeepers or tips from busing tables, whose shopping consists of consignment clothing and secondhand rollerblades. This is my kingdom.
I kiss my cross, stuff it in my shirt. Sun’s out. Phone buzzes. It’s my stepdad again. He’s in my contacts as DON’T ASNWER. MOM texts, says, zekey come home. I pocket my phone.
I’m not going home.
Mikey Reyes passes on his scooter. We fist bump. He bows, says waddup Zeke. I say nothin, you? He says, shit is what it is, man. Can’t do much about it. I say that’s church.
The kids call me a prophet because I can predict lands and foretell wipe outs. It’s all about footing, but I don’t tell them that. I let them believe there’s still magic.
People part like the sea, bend like sheaves of wheat before me. Namaste. I skate my sermons in the air, on the rails. Blader, skater, scooter, doesn’t matter. I wasted Leo LeSalle with a gazelle flip. I’m mad respected. Leo’s still around. We’re cool.
I push past kids, tanktopped and shirtless, against the chain link fence, puffing from a blunt. Their hair floats like jellyfish as they bob their heads to mumble rap blaring over the park’s stereo. They’re here. If they stay, they’ll never die, and their bones’ll never break.
If I was a prophet, I’d dig up the battered bones of bastard children, grind them to a powder, and mix it with the tears of my mother working two jobs while her second husband blows her money on booze and backdoor debauchery and repays her with bruises and half-assed apologies, and the tears of my sister, Myla, too young to know the world like a life-long lover, who learned that fighting back against her stepfather equals getting kicked out and couch surfing until mom says it’s okay to come home. I’d spit and blend in my DNA and watch the paste-like portent settle, dip two fingers in, spread it over the cracks veining across our lives, and anoint our existence, resurrecting what we had before mom remarried.
If I was a prophet, I would’ve told mom to never remarry and keep working at Benihana. She didn’t know Japanese, but she was happy. We’d still have our ramen with eggs, fumbling with our chopsticks, laughing. It’d go back to us watching PBS documentaries in one-bedroom apartments. Feeling safe because we knew we were together.
But I’m no prophet.
The sun drops slow to a soulful beat, giving the scene an eternal serenity. I know my subjects’ names, but across the park someone I don’t know’s amassing a congregation of curious acolytes shouting praises as he flips around a halfpipe. Jess Symanski shoots past. Who’s that? She says some dude named Jimmy Pariah. I say, what’s his deal? She says, guy can shred like no one’s business and I better watch out. I’m left standing, wanting to shout that Jimmy’s temporary. I’m not going anywhere. But I can’t know the future. Part of me wants to know about tomorrow and forever. If I’ll be here and still matter. It’s still my day as long as there’s day to be had. I know that much.
I nose manual, gazing through the maze of rails and rollerbladed ruffians. Jimmy Pariah preaches pop-shuvits to his parishioners. The tanktopped teens blaze off. Their blunt’s a burning beacon beeping in the evening. Eventually, the beacon dies, and the last of the kids scatter to wherever they call home.
I grab my phone. Fourteen messages from MOM. Six missed calls from DON’T ANSWER. She’s worried and wants to know I’m okay and says that DON’T ANSWER’S looking for me.
I switch on the flood lights. I see a ramp ahead. If I pull up enough, I can get some air. My wheels whir against the cement right before the ramp into a crescendo. I hit, lift, and Benihana. I grab tailside, right foot’s out. I’m weightless, soaring heavenward. I close my eyes and envision myself flying above the city. Below, I see DON’T ANSWER zigzagging through one-way streets, swearing at everything. I spot our apartment with its flaked stucco and rust-stained water meter and reach down and grab mom and Myla, leaving DON’T ANSWER in our dust. Eyes shut; I see the future. Our future. If I can keep us together long enough, we might just make it.
Jace Einfeldt is a native of Southern Utah and currently lives in Central New York with his wife. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in CutBank, The Nervous Breakdown, No Contact, and elsewhere.