If you fell on the ice, you had to make fists because some super-jock speed skater would almost certainly skate past you at that exact moment and chop your fingers off. An arm if you were super unlucky. Everybody said so. It happened to people who knew people. No, really.
No matter. We were in.
I wasn’t the only one thinking about bloody, decapitated body parts as we stood at the foot of Carlton Centre looking up-up-up and up at the great monolith that exuded Johannesburg on any given horizon. Concrete for Africa.
I saw my face in the faces of my friends. Like we’d stepped out of a Manga story—moons for eyes, unblinking, quivering, with terror-infused reflective orbs eclipsing both pupil and iris. I tried pull an eyelid closed—just one. I needed the other eye to stay on the lookout. For… But no. Not happening. Probably just as well. This was not the mall, or Boksburg. This was Carlton Sky Rink. Skate or die. Everybody said so.
We looked at one another…
… and allowed the giant to suck us in.
Giggling, holding hands we pushed the button—“sky rink”. There was no turning back.
It was day but it was dark. Ecstatic strobes attacked the ice, which was enveloped by hundreds of blue plastic seats—speechless spectators to stories in the sky. Powder-shaped people floated between the rows. Ghosts of the arena or loose forms against the spray of ice and light, I’ll never know.
Shoes for skates. Like some weird post-apocalyptic exchange programme that would keep us alive in this strange new world. Skates on, we wobbled like babies toward the ice. Alien babies. Blades, digging into the floor leaving tracks. Blunt.
Smells Like Teen Spirit morphs into No Limit then Ace of Base and that sign.
Clutching the edge…clutching, clutching, clutching. Braver. Hands let go. Cutting corners. Ramming into the side. It’s fun. So fun. Around and around. Through the middle. Da-nger-ous. Smack. On the ground. The whites of my eyes pulsate in the reflection of the cold ice, only they’re black. Moons eclipsed. Chop chop chop. Blood. Splatter Fists. Fists fists fists. Quick. I’m up.
Did you know…
…it’s skate or die at the Carlton Sky Rink. Everybody says so. No, really. We know people.
We’ve been there.
Author & Storyteller: Andrea Zanin
Andrea is a writer, wife, mother and dreamer; also the author of this website. She moved to London in 2006 to earn £s, travel, see bands and buy 24-up Dr Martens—which she did, and then ended up staying. Andrea lives in North London with her husband (also a Saffa) and five children. She loves this grand old city but misses her home and wishes her children could say “lekker” (like a South African) and knew what a “khoki” is.