As soon as I hobble out onto the ice, I start to fall.
My hands reach out for my friend, who’s laughing beside me while I slip. “Grab onto the wall!” she says, holding me up and skating us to the side. My fingers grasp for the wood and that’s how I pull myself along, inch by inch.
We’re at a birthday party, and I had a choice: I could sit on the bench with a donut, or I could go out and skate with everyone else. Ice skating wasn’t my thing—I knew this. But they all made it look so easy.
People are flying by, one foot in front of the other. Two of them are in a race to see who can circle the arena the fastest. I feel the breeze they leave behind as they rush past.
I’m barely moving.
My friend takes a lap, then joins me back at my spot on the wall.
“You just need to let go,” she says. “If you fall once you’ll realize it’s not that bad.”
I’m skeptical—the ice is hard, we’re only wearing pajamas. I don’t want to embarrass myself.
“I’m good here,” I tell her. Taking only the smallest steps forward, too afraid to let go. Too afraid to fall.
It’s not easy for me to fall.
Not with just anybody. For the past four years, I thought I had only one chance. That I’d fallen in love and blew it, that I wouldn’t get another shot at it. That nobody else could live up to that experience—that a first time can’t be topped.
And then I met a boy in March.
I’d dated other people in between. I spent a year of my life standing by, but not necessarily with, the world’s sweetest man, but never said the four-letter word we all hope to hear. I never felt it. I’d gone on more first dates than I can even remember, with boys who I struggled to remember the names of. I’d had fleeting moments with boys I met in bars or through friends. Every time I felt something missing. Every time I thought it was a lost cause, but I never stopped trying.
I wanted to feel butterflies again.
In March, a boy called me on the phone. From the first sound of his voice, I knew something was going to be different. He always called, never texted. He said he wanted to be in my life, not on my screen. He said a lot of wonderful things. His words were always what sank me further—falling.
When I talked about him, I told everyone he was a sunshine human. One of those rare people who brighten every space, who lighten your days. My heart had felt so heavy, and then he came and made it light again.
We shared our dark places from date one and we didn’t care about what they meant. We filled them with light together. I thought, this is what I’ve been waiting for. This person is it.
I let myself fall, ignoring the insecurities that normally held me back. I dove all in, and when I fell it felt like I was rising.
But then I hit bottom. Fallen. Broken.
I went out to dinner with a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time. We talked about him joining the army, about my job, about a mutual aversion to dark beers.
“Tell me about your love life?” he asked. The wound was still fresh.
I told him everything. From meeting the sunshine boy to finding out he wasn’t radiating the goodness I thought he was.
“And there’s been nobody else?” my friend asks when the conversation ends.
I shake my head.
He stops for a second, takes a sip of beer.
“I just hope it doesn’t stop you from falling for someone so easily again.”
I hope so too. But now I know how painfully long the distance is from top to bottom.
My friend laps me again.
“Okay, you need to get off this wall,” she says, grabs my hand.
I’m terrified, standing on shaky ankles trying to keep myself steady. I don’t let go of her, but she starts speeding up.
“You can keep up,” she assures me. We’re rounding a corner, holding up the people behind us. I shuffle my feet forward a little faster.
Another lap around and I’m standing on my own, still shaky, still uncomfortable—but I’m doing it. Going at a pace faster than a crawl, ice skating.
People who noticed I was the girl on the wall cheer as they pass me; I’m feeling confident now. Another lap around and I decide to go faster.
Bad idea. The ice feels foreign again, my feet can’t adjust, can’t find a footing. I’m going faster and faster just trying to keep upright—out of control.
Then I’m falling, arms flailing, legs sprawled in separate directions. I hit hard on the ice, feel the cold soak through to my skin. My friend’s caught up to me; she’s holding back laughter.
But I’m the first to let it loose.
Tears rolling down my nose, unable to breathe type of laughter. I’m fine. A little bruised, but she was right. I fell—it didn’t kill me. It’s easy to stand back up and start again, knowing a bout of laughter is the worst I have to look forward to.
Now that I’ve fallen, the rest of the night is mine to enjoy.