The Beast of Many Backs

Guest blog by Nicomatose It’s the top of Hour 3, and time to try a new drill, one the Rocky Mountain Roller Girls introduced at their boot camp: skate a tight pack, the 25 or so of you, “but you communicate with your teammates—say, the jammer is coming! or on the inside! or just I’m here, I’m here, I’m here!—but don’t stop: you must communicate the whole time.” You wobble on your toe stops, wipe the sweat from your upper lip—you’re still brand new, the season hasn’t started, nobody’s wearing mustaches yet—that sounds easy, no problemo: go.

You start, you are the pack—you become the beast of many backs—you are surrounded by noise, but you can’t say a single thing.  You gum your mouthguard, try, ummm, okay. Okay, okay! But nothing happens, it dies in the vault inside you.

You want to scream: No fair! Stop! Wait! I have it all here in my head!  The whole game, all the feelings: you jostle, roil, race—shoulders smash, wheels trip, you are shoved roughly out of bounds—pressed and then crushed, carried, one skate losing contact with the floor—pushed from behind—that strange moment of redoubling, taking on another’s motion—you lurch, stagger, and are through.  All the meanings: you are so bad at it—or anyway, so far from masterful—this is the worst you’ve ever been at anything you’ve ever done, and you are having so much fun! Laying yourself night after night like a sacrifice at the mouth of your own limitations.

“I’m here”—you manage finally, “I’m here”: not very loud, but at least in a way that doesn’t sound like a lie.

“Your body is in there, but you aren’t communicating where you are to your teammates”—someone, a coach observes, and I nod, I know it: “I will work on that.”