I saw the teenager while I was lacing up my daughter’s skates. He was maybe eighteen and skating alone.
His moves were elegant and smooth like he’d been doing them his whole life. He performed lutzes, crossovers, and sit spins. He did them effortlessly and with complete joy.
Yet, occasionally he’d stumble. His arms would reach out, and he’d have to dig his skates in deep to recover.
I realized he was skating with a partner that wasn’t there. For every graceful axle he performed, there was an awkward attempt at a lift.
As I helped my daughter shuffle shakily along the boards, I couldn’t stop watching him and wondering who his missing partner was. I never knew the truth until I read the news the next day.
There had been a four-car pile-up outside of the city. Ice conditions were the cause. One of the fatalities had been a young figure skater on his way to a competition. The other occupants of the vehicle had survived.
For the rest of the winter, my daughter and I returned several times to that rink. I’d searched but never saw him.
I hope I’m just missing him, and he’s still there, amongst the crowds, and skating with complete joy.