Pas de Deux
Ravi Mangla

Corrine and I spent Saturday at the skating rink. Let the record show, this was her decision, not mine. She accused me of always picking our Saturday activities, or if not picking them then hectoring her into picking an activity she wouldn’t have otherwise picked. When she lived in the city she worked as a Sugar Plum Fairy in the year-round skating show, A Nutcracker Skatacular. Being at the rink brought back cozy memories of the show, and her ex-squeeze Jerome, who played the Prince, and who broke her heart after the show closed and moved to the Philippines to traffic in imitation Rolexes. She told me once how the show had accounted for the best years of her life. “The crowds,” she said. “They were unlike anything.” I tried to relate some of my own stories, having been the Drum Major in the marching band during my fifth year of high school, but she just shook her head. “You don’t get it,” she said. “It’s completely different.”

We were about to step onto the rink when a man put a hand on my shoulder. There were thick bandages wrapped around his head, the gauze mottled with dried blood. “Hey, be careful out there. It’s dangerous. A layer of ice has settled on top and it’s incredibly slippery. Somebody should do something about it.”

“Thanks for the tip, guy,” I said.

“What’d he say?” Corrine asked.

“He said it’s slippery out there and we should be careful,” I said. Corinne nodded thoughtfully. She took my arm and steered us across the rink.

“I feel like I’m going to fall. Maybe we should go back,” I said.

“Don’t be silly.”

She told me about the history of skating – how skates were invented in 1453 by Marconi, who also invented the radio. She told me that Union messengers, in order to avoid detection, would skate down rivers and streams during the Civil War.

Not that I doubted her facts, but they weren’t what I was expecting.

“Watch this,” she said, letting go of my arm.

She glided to the center of the rink and performed a spinning trick with her arms extended and left leg thrust outward. Picking up speed, she raised her leg even higher but lost her footing and fell forward, thumping her head on the ice.

I dropped to my knees and crawled over to her.

“Corinne, Corinne,” I said. Her eyes were slicked over, tears forming in the corners. I folded my sweater and placed it under her head.

“The crowds,” she said. “Do you see them?”

I looked around. All along the curved walls, bodies lay in shivering masses: limbs kinked together, moans rattling off the acrylic paneling.

“Listen. They love me,” she said.

We listened. Her head swayed lightly from side to side. “Jerome,” she whispered, and closed her eyes. The zamboni operator helped me carry her to the snack bar. Together, we waved exotic mustards under her nose and asked her who she was.

Ravi Mangla (b. 1872) is the oldest man alive. He lives in a treehouse in the woods. Follow him on Twitter: @ravi_mangla.