A man learns to skate by staggering about and making a fool of himself. Indeed he progresses in all things by resolutely making a fool of himself.
– George Bernard Shaw
“Half as beautiful as you, which is to pay it an astronomical compliment.”
“There are few words within the human vocabulary that can be spoken of you, my sweet, and yet be considered mere flattery.”
She rolled her eyes but she smiled, and I didn’t think the color in her cheeks was entirely from the biting chill of the ice rink. As much as I would have liked to keep my eyes on her I had to return my attention to my unstable feet. I was inching my way into the rink, arms spread wide, probably looking like a flightless bird on legs of gelatin. Meanwhile, she skated graceful circles around me, coaching me.
“You’re doing fine,” she said. “The hard part is learning to get your balance.”
“I like to consider myself a defender of balance.”
Feeling bolder, I threw one of my feet out in front in an attempt to pick up speed. I made it about three feet on my skates and eleven more on my face. It was worth it to hear her wind-chime laughter echoing through the dome. Still trilling, she slid to my side and offered me a hand.
“Are you sure this is your first time?”
“You fell like a natural,” she teased.
“Why, thank you, my dear; I like to consider myself a natural, even if only a natural disaster.”
Pulling me to my feet, she offered, “Here. Hold my hand. It will help.”
“Don’t have to ask me twice.”
Another fifteen minutes went by, and on the strength of her guidance and assistance I began to get accustomed to the strange feeling of standing on butcher knives, and had successfully skated a full circle around the rink, falling only twice, bringing her down with me only once. Another fifteen minutes passed and we had gone around the rink another dozen times.
“Do you know something?” I said. “This is fun.”
“It’s difficult for me to admit this—but I’ll swallow my pride. This was a great idea, and a better way to have a date, even, than some of my past ideas.”
“Are you referring to the—”
“I believe we agreed not to talk about that since we paid off the broken vase.”
“Right.” She hid a smile. “I just hope this teaches you something. We can have normal dates, too, and still enjoy ourselves!”
“And I can still find something to philosophize about. Figure skating makes a beautiful metaphor.”
She mumbled, “You could philosophize about a paperclip.”
“As a matter of fact—”
“Please! Not right now.”
“Right. Let’s focus on the metaphor of figure skating.”
“Actually, I’d rather just focus on the act of skating.”
“C’mon, can’t I please? Just a little?”
She sneered her exasperation. Behind it, however, her eyes twinkled. “Fine.”
I took both her hands and swept into a spiral. I tottered and nearly fell but she saved me, and using each other as counterweights we twirled together on the ice.”They say life is a dance,” I began. “Well, I’ll agree with that, so far. Love is, too. But not true love. True love is something different. It’s so close to the same thing—and yet it’s so far. But if you don’t look closely enough, you can’t even tell. It’s a subtle thing. It’s more than just moving your feet to a melody and timing each move to the rhythm. It’s not as simple as holding each other close and trying to work together at the same pace. That’s what dancing is about. But love—true love—is all that and more. True love is like figure skating in a pair.”
“I think I see where you’re going. I watch figure skating whenever I get the chance, and I especially like to see the pairs. They really have to work hard to stay together and time everything just right. Dancing is—well, I mean, it’s dancing. Professional ballroom dancers are incredible, I would never argue with that, but, well, there’s a reason it’s not an olympic event. It doesn’t take as much of the same stuff as figure skating. The thing about figure skating is that the ice will carry you much farther than your feet would. Sometimes that means rushing along at a faster pace than you could keep up with on your own, and sometimes you can just glide slowly and easily along without much effort, and sometimes you have to push to pick up speed. But when you’re skating with a partner—it’s not about keeping pace, it’s about helping each other and staying together as the paces change.” She shrugged with a trill and said, “So I can definitely see what you mean—true love is that way, too. It’s not two people trying to stay at the same pace, but two people supporting each other through all the changes of pace.”
I nodded eagerly, beaming. “What could I possibly add to that?”
A smirk crawled across her face. “You’ll think of something.”
“Well, all I can say is that you’re exactly right. Life, as in the act of living, can be like a dance. But life, the world around us—it’s like the ice in a skating rink.”
I let go of one of her hands and we slid to a halt. With one hand, I gestured over the ice.
“When you dance together, it’s just the two of you and nothing else. Throw anything more complicated into the mix, and they lose it. When you skate together, it’s the two of you together against the ice. It’s not so simple. It’s much more complicated.”
“I think the biggest difference is that dancing is fifty-fifty. Figure skating is about each of the partners giving one hundred percent.”
“You have to, to dance together against the ice.”
“True love . . . it’s all about a man and a woman, body and soul in tune; one heart, one mind, one will, united for a common goal, with a common enemy. . . . Then again . . .” I cut a slow circle around her and then came to a stop in front of her. “Is it about working against the ice, or working with it?”
“That’s a good point.”
I put my arms around her and she put her arms around me and we enjoyed that common and not altogether unpleasant show of affection called a Hug.
“Are you feeling more comfortable on the ice?”
“As long as I’m with you.”
“Good. Do you think you’re ready to try without the double-bladed training skates now?”