Published on August 30th, 2013 | by Fox Sake14
Fox Sake by Jason Ruffel (Roller Derby on Film)
On Coming Back
I can skate. I can’t skate.
I’ve played roller derby for the past six years. For the last couple of years I’ve been hot and cold about it. At some point it just stopped being fun. I’ve tried to retire a few times but always came to the conclusion that it’s too much a part of me, too much who I am. I couldn’t voluntarily walk away. And so I didn’t.
Fifteen weeks ago, I’m jamming for my home team in our season championship bout. I’m slipping past the pack at the start of the turn, my team’s solid front wall holding the other jammer. She lunges at me, and I jump towards the apex, and I feel my right ankle snap. I know it’s broken before I hit the floor. I’m in remarkably good spirits at the time, probably due to the prompt presence of medical staff and a canister of nitrous oxide. I joke about being glad I didn’t make the travel team squad this time round, because missing two WFTDA playoff tournaments out of three with injuries would have been too much to take. The crowd and my teammates chant my name as I am wheeled to the ambulance on a stretcher, and I’m thankful again that I broke at a bout and not a practice.
Tib, fib, dislocation. Open reduction and fixation. My ankle is put back together with pins and plates, and I’m grateful for a civilised and socialised health care system. At home, the first day out of hospital, I’m still so stuffed with painkillers that I barely notice when I drop a heavy catalogue on my good foot and break a toe. I strap it back into place and carry on.
The day before my break, I find out I am being made redundant. Ten days or so after, still in my surgical cast, I drag myself to an interview. Sweatpants, crutches and purple hair. I get the job. I carry on. My friends come round and draw pictures on my cast that I have to cover up in polite company, and I love them for it. I go to New York, to ECDX, in an air cast, still on crutches. I discover that a perk of being broken is getting to skip the queues for immigration and the ridiculous cab line at JFK. I wonder if it’s worth it. At ECDX at least three people show me their ankle scars. There are others on crutches, in casts. We nod at each other. We know. We carry on.
Back home, I stay up til 4am to watch my leaguemates, my friends, take on and beat Rat City and I nearly burst with pride. My recovery progress is good and I’m cleared for full weight bearing, to get rid of the crutches, to get rid of the boot. I go to physio. I go to the gym. It feels good to move again, though my ankle swells and my balance is shot and just walking still hurts.
And now. What now?
What now, after fifteen weeks of no skating, no regular practice routine, no evenings taken up with derby, a taste of freedom? I’m having to deal with all the reasons I never quit anyway. I’m needing to re-evaluate myself, to figure out who I am if I’m not a derby girl. I’m no longer scared of losing my place on my teams – I don’t have one to lose any more. I still can’t skate. I miss it desperately. But can I put myself through another break? And there are so many other things I could do, especially in a city like London.
The choice has become not whether to retire but whether to rededicate myself to derby, and somehow that’s a much harder choice to make.