New Frontier This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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Never before in the history of my class had a girl and boy attempted to transcend the boundaries of friendship, until that earth-shattering day in third grade.

Most kids my age had more interesting things to occupy their time than thinking about the opposite sex, but it was different for us. We were interested in girls and they in us.

As interest grew, we asked each other, “Do you like Amy? Colleen? Lindsay?” and, though it was a lie, we always replied with a bashful, but stern, “No.” We all wanted to make our move, but feared the fire of peer scrutiny. One bold sacrificial lamb would have to submit himself to the wolves to clear a path. That brave soul would be my best friend, Bailey.

One day, Bailey and a few of us were at a popcorn and pizza grease-covered table at the roller rink. We had spent the day skating, playing outdated video games and chasing each other. This is what we usually did, but that day our normal activities somehow seemed less than entertaining.

It began when Rat – I think his real name was Martin – asked Colleen if she would couple-skate with Bailey. Whether he was sent or self-motivated is not important – what matters is Rat skated across that rink, lit by fluorescent flashing lights like a scene out of “Saturday Night Fever,” and asked the ground-breaking question. We watched, with eagerness and excitement. Bailey pretended not to care about the verdict, but we knew he was as consumed with interest as any of us. It was almost unbearable, watching Rat skate toward us, knowing he had the answer. All we could do was wait for his short, little legs to bring the message. I struggled to keep from screaming, “What did she say?” Finally, he reached us. “Well, I asked Colleen if she would couple-skate with Bailey, and she said she might if he asked himself. But she said it would just be as friends.” A sigh of relief and disappointment escaped from Bailey. He knew “maybe” was much closer to “yes” than “no,” but he also knew how hard it would be to enter the wolves’ den and make the request face-to-face. He began his approach and we circled the skating floor trying to get a better view without being too obvious.

“What do you think she’ll say?” Matt asked.

“I bet she’s going to say yes. Why else would she make him ask in person?” I answered. A year later I learned an “ask-in-person” request is not a guaranteed yes, but this time it was. We watched them step onto the rink hand in hand. All eyes were on the couple as they nervously skated away from the giggling group of girls. That first awkward step onto the rink was like Neil Armstrong heroically setting foot on the moon and opening a new frontier for all mankind. It was a gunblast signaling the beginning of a long and exciting race. When we saw the two join hands, we burst into a frenzy of excitement and looked for someone to skate with. I searched with a ferocity found only at the most primal level of man until I spotted a likely candidate. I approached purposefully and asked, “Lindsay, will you skate with me?”

She replied with disgust, “No!” I was let down, but not deterred. I was on a mission. Slightly less assured, I skated up to another girl, only to be met again with a condescending, “No.” I was still sure I could get a girl to skate with me. I mean, if Bailey could do it, then I certainly could. I was filled with urgency; I was racing against time, or more accurately the end of the song. Any girl would do. The next girl to enter my sight was Pauline and I hurriedly approached her. A third time I asked, “Will you skate with me?” I felt confident she would agree, but this encounter unfortunately followed the same theme as the previous two. With my heart broken and bleeding, I returned to the refuge of my equally unsuccessful friends. We sat, not saying much, other than occasionally questioning Bailey about his experience.

After a while, I saw Pauline slowly coming my way. I could not imagine what she would say. She sheepishly explained, “I’m sorry I didn’t say yes. I was just afraid my brothers would make fun of me. Do you still want to skate?”

“Of course,” I replied, and we awkwardly grasped hands and skated off into the shimmering light of the spinning disco ball.

This experience made me wary, but hope remained. After all, there was a grand, new frontier awaiting.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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