In grade seven, I had a crush on Eric. Tall, lean, gorgeous Eric. He was in the same year as I was, but he was a year older. I knew little about him and accepted the rumours that he was a ‘bad’ boy. He had an edge of something racy, something hidden. That combined with his dark eyes and dark hair was the attraction.
Years later I understood that he was an immigrant from Poland and still groping with the English language, he had been sent back a grade. I just thought he was silently cool.
At recess and at lunchtime, I would look for him in the corridors, trembling when I spotted him. He was not aware of me at all. I had an intense and purely imaginative relationship with him during the school fall session.
In the winter evenings of that year, I would walk up Van Horne avenue to Pratt Park to skate on the pond. This rink had a small cabin, heated by a small stove, where we changed from boots to skates and skates to boots.
On the ice, we skated in the same direction, singly, in pairs and in groups. I was skating around one evening with the others and noticed Eric on the edge of the ice. The first time I had seen him at the park. At every round, I peeked at him, creating romantic scenarios.
On one round, a boy I didn’t know skated close to me. He grabbed my hand, forcing me to skate with him. I didn’t like him. I stopped in the center of the moving circle of skaters and as he stopped with me, I jerked my hand out of his and yelled at him, leave me alone. Go away. I yelled louder, go away. I pushed at his chest.
What’s the matter with you, he said.
Just go away, I screamed, I don’t like you. Go away.
He stood there confident and assured. I was furious. How dare he presume? He hadn’t asked. He had just grabbed me.
Eric arrived, five inches taller than the kid who was offending me.
What’s going on, Eric said. Eric loomed over him and raised his hand. The boy disappeared into the moving circle of skaters.
Eric took my hand. Do you want to go around with me?
I wrenched my hand from his. How dare he? I thought. How dare he think I can’t take care of myself? Did Eric think I wasn’t capable all on my own?
No, I said and skated off.
Later, in the cabin, changing to go home, when I removed my skates, my feet ballooned to double their normal size.
I limped down the hill to home only in my rubber galoshes unable to feel my feet or my toes.