The new kid from under the tree at lunch was in the bowl, practicing flips on his board. He caught air and slapped down before joining the others gliding back and forth around each other like planets in separate orbits. Sometimes a board would slip out or a trick would go wrong in a jumble of elbows and skidding wheels. The tall kid with the white blonde hair never fell. He moved like water, his face perfectly serene.
When the streetlights came on I knew my mother would be making dinner. My father would be waxing his car in the driveway with one pissed off eye down the street looking for me to come home. To delay the scene with my parents I watched the skaters for a while, drawing in my sketchbook until the crowd thinned out and I felt like entering the bowl myself. I had intended to practice kick flips but changed my mind so I wouldn’t scrub in front of the new kid. I skated through, letting my mind go blank and clean.
Across the bowl Erik did a 180 kick flip with serious air and landed with perfect balance. In a rush of blind courage I tried the same and fell hard. I brushed my pants like it didn’t hurt. Another kid laughed but Erik slid over and kicked up his board.
“Dude, you’re so close. Put your back foot more on the edge. You’ve got this.”
I hadn’t meant to try again. I’d meant to slink home and face whatever was going on there rather than look like an idiot at the skate park. But Erik smiled in a way that made me want to get back on my board.
I fell again, harder this time. Erik laughed but not in a mean way.
“Open your shoulders. Your heart chakra, man.”
“My heart chakra,” I repeated. “What the hell.”
But Erik wasn’t laughing now. “The board wants what you want. One more time.”
I don’t know why I decided to trust him, this kid who moved like water on his wheels. But I did. I put my foot back close to the edge, pushed forward and then stopped thinking. I kicked, opened my upper body like he said and landed facing the other way without a wobble.
“The board wants what I want,” I said. I couldn’t believe I’d made the trick. “That’s funny.”
“Funny but true,” Erik said. “You proved it.”
We skated together until the moon rose and our empty stomachs drove us home. Before I left, I ripped out the drawing I'd been making of Erik on his board and handed it over.
“You did this,” Erik said. A statement. I couldn’t tell if he liked it or not.
“Yeah. Whatever. You can keep it.”
“This is so cool,” he said. “I can’t believe you’re giving it to me.”
“No big deal,” I said. I headed across the grass towards my own neighborhood, feeling light and okay.
By the time I got home, my dad was already beer mellowed and in a good mood.
“You’re going to negotiate for extra credit first thing Monday,” was all he said as we sat to the table. My mom was too glad to have everyone home for dinner to be mad at me for being late or for anything else either.
From that first night, Erik made everything better without even trying.