I check my chin strap, tug my knee pads, slip the star over my helmet, skate to the line, crouch, right fist balled at eye level, left fist punching my lumbar spine. The whistle bleats. We jammers run, vicious ballerinas en pointe, thudding on rubber toe-stops, wheels-up, propulsive sprinting, then fast and dirty skating.
Bonnie Hate beats me to the pack, wrestles a wall of arm-linked lady-jocks, but she can’t spy the chink. I catch up, throw my triceps into clasped hands, lean, lean, grunt. My girls, The Shame-free Sluts, hug and huddle, hold off Hate, signal me toward a narrow hole beneath drenched armpits, between glistening thighs. I muscle inside, take a razor of fingernail to the cheek, catch a rogue wheel with my ankle, bleed, push, push, push, emerge, skin-slick and screaming. I am born; alone now, rushing cyclical, my next attack in sight.
Seconds before a fresh skirmish, Hate rushes my back, kicks illegally, masks the foul with a flash of legit legwork, crashes me helmet-first into the box. I roar down the ref: Low block! He’s stoic, holds his whistle, spits out his mouthguard, hisses between smiling teeth: Legal hip. Coach puts her body between our bodies, her tits to mine: Enough, Sally Snide; skate or sit. The call reeks, but the striped man has spoken and coach’s eyes say our only answer is 220 pounds of me on wheels.
I rejoin the jam, but Hate has trounced my nerves, soured my head-game. She racks up points, three jams straight. I tap out, pass the starry skull cap, nurse a grudge on the sidelines. I’m pussy-hurt in my plastic chair—sulky forearms leaning on soggy quads, slippery forehead kissing prayer-clasped hands—when Hate’s yowl runs my boiling blood backwards. I fly, the hottest lap of my derby days, a gargantuan and mighty crossover on the curve. Cradling Hate’s cheating, sneaky, calculating head in my lap, I stroke and stroke, murmuring her a love song.