Planes, Trains & Automobiles

Yesterday my journey to town was exactly that film. Except change ‘planes’ for ‘bikes’ and ‘trains’ for… well we don’t have trains over here apart from the one that just goes around the Steam Museum and Terry which is the tourist train that goes along the front. And that one isn’t even a train. It’s a stupid little car that pulls along carriages (I race it when I go running). An ‘automobile’ was involved, two to be precise.

See, I was supposed to meet Enrique in town for ice skating. I told him I was cycling in because Enrique’s bike had a puncture and it would mean I would have to spend less time in his company. I always tell him not to cycle on the gravel but he doesn’t listen. If I was driving I’d have to drive him too. I went to get on my bike but the back tyre was flat and I don’t have spare inner tubes. I don’t like to think of things that could go wrong so I’m often unprepared for when they inevitably do. Even though the tyre was clearly flat I still pressed it with my thumb a few times, I don’t know why.

I knew that the bus would be packed and I’m not paying for a taxi so I thought about getting on Terry the Train, but in the end I decided to drive. Just like the film! I made no attempt to look for Enrique but of course I saw him as I was driving past the bus stop. My vehicle is distinctive. It’s a Land Rover with stickers on so I couldn’t just drive past him, I had to stop. I hate picking people up from bus stops as the other people at the stop will often think you’ve stopped for them and they’ll shamble up to the car, nervously, like the walking dead and peer into the window to see if they know the driver. It’s uncomfortable. So I avoid it. But I stopped for Enrique. I had to.

Five other people got in the back with him, all saying thanks as I just shook my head. The good thing is the Land Rover is incredibly noisy so nobody spoke to me. I parked near the hospital and everybody bundled out of the back and went on their way. I found Enrique. “Okay?” I asked. He was wiping down his white suit. The back of the truck is manky, I normally only have the dog in there.

We walked past that thing and over to the tent which houses the rink. We didn’t talk much as already I just wanted this over with. Picking people up had pissed me off. In the queue I spotted Carol or her twin sister, one of them. Turned out it was her twin sister. “I’m my sister!” She said, stating the obvious. I introduced Enrique but she had as little interest in Enrique as I had. Enrique didn’t seem to mind, he was growing excited. He couldn’t stand still.

He started bouncing on the spot and rubbing his hands together vigorously. Getting our tickets I offered to pay but Enrique wouldn’t entertain the idea, it was his treat. That was fair enough as I expected to absolutely hate ice skating. I admit that I am a pessimist. My glass is broken. I thought I’d be rubbish at it. I didn’t for one moment think I’d be a total natural and actually love the whole experience. I’d expected the whole thing to be physically painful.

I was right. Putting the skates on was a massive chore. Walking to the rink was impossible. It was like walking in uncomfortable boots with a large blade on the bottom. It was stupid. There was only one or two things that could make walking in these stupid boots even more dangerous, and that was trying to do it on a tightrope over a volcano or, I dunno, a big sheet of ice.

On the ice I instantly stacked it and then couldn’t get up. I wondered what I was doing there. Enrique skated up to me and pulled me to my feet. I didn’t thank him because it was all his fault.

I held onto the sides of the rink, every muscle in my body tensed to stop my legs from escaping. If I didn’t move I wouldn’t fall but even that wasn’t easy. Enrique was actually telling me how to skate! I wanted to hear that. “Bend chor knee, gh’relaaaaaxxxxx!”

“Fuck off!” I barked, “don’t worry about me.” He was steadying me with his hand on the small of my back, I tried to shake him off so that nobody thought we were a couple but as soon as one of my hands left the side I lost control and had to grab for it again, really hurting my wrist. “Just go and skate will you.” I told him without daring to turn.

“Chu sure?”

“Fuck off.”

He finally let go. After about five minutes I managed to pull myself along about 12 inches. I decided to pull myself around the whole rink with my hands planted firmly on the side. I felt that might give me some sense of achievement. The tricky part came when there were people standing at the side. I had to get them to move. I apologised.

When I got about half way around and I’d had enough. I looked for an easy exit and as soon as my mind stopped focusing 100% on not falling over I fell over. A child helped me to my feet. I couldn’t work out how it was so hot. My face was red and my pits were sweaty. I couldn’t understand how every single other person in the world could ice skate. When the fuck did I miss ice skating school? Suddenly the side of the rink got crowded which was just what I didn’t need. I braced myself as best I could against the sides and looked around. At first I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. I was looking at Enrique doing the best ice skating outside of the Olympics or a frozen cartoon kitchen. He was skating forwards. Skating backwards, skating on one leg, doing hand gestures. It was fucking incredible. He was a black swan in a white suit. Everybody else had left the centre of the rink, it was just Enrique, people cuddled each other while watching him, delight on their faces like they were witnessing a Christmas miracle.

“Wow!” Exclaimed somebody next to me.

“Yeah.” I replied then went down like a sack of shit. I grappled my way to an upright position using parts of my arms not used to bearing weight. When I was up I was told by a stranger that I’d just missed Enrique doing a flying spinny thing. Now he had stopped and the place erupted. There was rapturous applause, whistles and bouquets of flowers were being thrown at him. Enrique looked abashed. He lifted a hand and gave a little wave to his fans. Fucking hell, he was getting cooler by the second.

A few people left the sides and slowly went towards him. I decided to do the same. I wanted to congratulate him. This time I didn’t fall as soon as a let go of the sides. I fell as soon as I tried to propel myself forward. I was on the ice, on my side, I was still heading towards Enrique using my toes and elbows and face and knees. I was a lot like a fish on the deck of a boat. Instead of heading for the open ocean I was heading towards an ice dancing Colombian.

By the time I got to the centre he had left the ice and so had his fans but I kept going for the exit. I didn’t have a choice. A man came on the ice with a large brush, without bristles, and thankfully pushed me off. I took the boots off where I landed. Stood and looked for Enrique. There was a crowd around him. Drawn to him like moths to a fabulous light.

“Excuse me!” I shouted as a fought my way through. My shoes were with his. I got there and Enrique’s answering questions and signing pieces of paper. “That was pretty cool!” I told him and meant it. Somebody actually asked me to sign a card! Just for knowing Enrique and all those years of practising my signature paid off.

Enrique looked tired but happy, like a stage winner in the Tour de France. A fat man with an Italian accent was telling Enrique he could eat for free at his place any time he wanted. The fat man just wanted a photo of Enrique for his wall. Enrique accepted and asked me if I wanted to go too. Of course I fucking did! We were like movie stars. Leaving the tent people applauded Enrique, I held his arm up declaring him the winner of the night and me the winner’s friend.

The Italian led us to his car which was a Mitsubishi Shogun, we were travelling in style! I wondered what restaurant we were going to. Carbs or no carbs, I was going to eat a truck-load of gnocchi. We drove through the tunnel but I knew there weren’t many restaurants that way. Enrique was quiet but smiled every time I said he was great. I asked the Italian where we were going.

“To Mia Casa.” He said. That means something like ‘my house’.

“It’s a restaurant, right?”

“No.”

“Whoa. Stop the car.” He stopped and started giving it all, what’s-a-matter-you-eh?

So me and Enrique were about a two miles from my Land Rover. It was freezing cold and I was soaked. After a mile of walking I was completely over his fucking ice dancing.

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