Inspired by my roller derby sisters.
Copyright 2012 Nicole Villacres
All I know is, everything just came to a stop. We were at the Sportsplex in the middle of a jam and I was trying to get through the pack and then…nothing. No sound, no movement. Everything stopped. I actually fell, because I hadn’t stopped and I slammed into Deth Becomes Her. She was like a stone wall. A statue. I sprained my wrist, ‘cause it slammed into her back. I was down on the ground trying to get up on my skates when I realized no one was moving. No one. Not the fans, not the players, no one. It was completely silent. And then I heard someone say hello and I looked around and there was Razz. She’s the other jammer. She was like, “Is anyone here?” I stood up and we skated to each other. We couldn’t figure out what was happening; it was like a movie, or a commercial, the kinds where all this action suddenly comes to a halt and the camera moves around a person in the middle of a leap or something. We held onto each other. We were scared. I wanted to vomit.
Touching anyone was like touching the dead. Everyone was frozen in mid-yell or laugh or yawn or whatever they had been doing at that moment.
And then, this little girl stood up from the front row, the suicide seats. She was looking at her mother, at least I guess it was her mother—she was frozen–and the girl started to cry. Must’ve been…five years old? She looked over at us and said she was sorry, and could we fix it.
We skated over to her, Razz demanding what happened, and I told her to chill out. I pulled my helmet off and knelt to the girl’s level and asked her why she was sorry.
She said she had stopped it. I looked at Razz. She looked like she was going to be sick. I asked the girl what she had stopped. She looked down at the ground. At her feet was a pocket watch. It looked really old. The little girl picked it up.
She said she’d taken it from her mom. That she wasn’t supposed to, but she wanted to. So she did.
I asked her if that was why everything was frozen. She nodded, cried again. I put my hand on her head. Asked her her name. Becky, she said.
Razz asked how to start the watch up again and if that would make everything unfreeze. Becky said it would but she didn’t know how. She said her mom was magic and always had the watch. She never let go of it. Then she seemed like she got an idea and she shoved the watch into her mom’s hand.
But nothing happened. Becky started crying for her mom to move.
I looked at Razz. I asked Becky if I could hold the watch. She looked at me; her face was splotchy from tears. She took the watch out of her mom’s hand and gave it to me. It was warm to the touch. It was gold with a glass cover, a white face, black hands and numbers. The hands seemed to float. I tipped the watch to the side, trying to see how they were connected. Razz was looking over my shoulder. The watch…I don’t know how to describe it…it felt, in my hand, very old…more than it looked. Almost ancient. I shivered inside. I looked for a place to wind it up, a knob to turn or something. I asked Becky if she’d ever seen her mom wind the watch. She shook her head.
Then she added, “Mommy runs.”
Razz and I looked at each other. Razz asked her what she meant. Becky said her mom ran every day. I asked her how long. She didn’t know.
I told her to stay with her mom and skated onto the track with the watch. Razz followed. She asked me what the watch was. I said I didn’t know. I’m not sure I wanted to know. I glanced back at the woman, Becky’s mother. She was pretty, but not especially noticeable. She didn’t look magic. But she did look very fit.
I looked at Razz. She runs, I said. I took a breath, gripped the watch in my hand and took off around the track as fast as I could. I nearly ran into Razz, who caught me as I careened to a stop.
They moved, she screamed at me, pointing at the pack. I didn’t notice a difference, but if she had…Becky was jumping around, too.
I grabbed Razz’s hand. I told her we have to skate. As long as it took. So we did. I raced around the track five, six, seven times, before I passed off the watch to Razz and fell down, trying to catch my breath. She didn’t miss a beat, taking off around the track with the watch. That’s when I saw it. It was almost imperceptible. But the pack was moving. Super slow. I glanced around and saw that everything was in uber slow motion. And the sound…I’ve never heard anything like it. A sort of moan of hundreds of voices.
I was just feeling like I had a little more energy when Razz was finally exhausted. I caught the watch from her as she skidded down to her kneepad and slid to a stop. I raced as hard as I could around the track as my derby sisters slowly seemed to come back into motion and the sound in the arena began to rise. It was so slow!
Razz and I kept going, until at last we were skating together, trying to share our energy, the watch clasped between us. I have no idea how long we skated. The last thing I remember is my legs giving way, losing touch with Razz, the watch burning like fire in my palm, and sliding across the track. The noise was unbelievable. I couldn’t think or speak as the other skaters all dropped to one knee as the refs called out that skaters were down. The next moment, Becky was there and her dark-haired mother, mouthing Thank you, and gently taking the watch from my hand. She then placed her own hand over my palm and the burning stopped. I realized I had slid right to their seats. And then the EMTs were there, asking me questions, checking me out.
But I couldn’t think or do anything. I’d never been so exhausted. I remember a stretcher. I remember the locker room. And water and oxygen. I remember my energy returning and the crowd cheering as Razz and I came back from the locker rooms to join our teams on the benches.
I looked for Becky. But her seat and her mother’s seat were empty. I glanced over to Razz on the other team’s bench and she had noticed, too. She raised her hand a little and pointed at her palm. I didn’t know what she meant, but then she pointed at me. I looked down at my hand. In my palm was the imprint of the ornate back of the watch.
The mark is fading now. But the memory of that jam? That I’ll never forget.