“WOAH! You look just like this one MAJOR CELEBRITY.”
Well, I’m an idiot. At least I was. Let’s just be clear on that before we begin.
Ok, so — roller disco, birthday party, Los Angeles, lots of people, lots of people I don’t know, slightly dim lighting but not really that dim at all, and me.
We’re skating, we’re skating. The 80’s are blaring, people are loving life. If you’re not having a good time you’re not here. And I was there, making laps and collecting helium balloons whose strings hung from the ceiling, tying them all to my back belt-loop and making a big show of myself. And I wasn’t going to stop until I started flying. But then I saw a girl.
She zipped past me like a bird in the night, wings and all—an angel on skates with the most truthful hips I’ve ever yet seen. I dropped the excess balloons and took just one in my hand. Well, I shouldn’t say I dropped the excess balloons because I didn’t, but I tried. I had tied them very tightly to my back belt loop and I couldn’t get them off by myself.
So, off I went, grabbing a single green balloon on my way. I glided up next to her and offered the gift. She laughed.
We began talking and skating around the rink together. She told me her first name, but it’s a common one. We talked about each other’s 80’s outfits and the cloud of balloons trailing me. We bantered about skating skills—she’s honestly incredible. She skates backwards faster than I skate forwards, probably because she grew up in the 80’s and I grew up in the 90’s, but I didn’t know that at the time—you see I thought she was 22 or so. I was 23. Roller skating is, after all, for youthful spirits. We know this.
“So, where are you from?” I ask.
“Toronto,” she replies.
“When did you move here?”
“Oh, no, I still live in Toronto. I’m just here visiting my sister and she took me to this birthday party.”
“Oh. Oh then. That’s cool. I don’t really know anyone here either, my friends Austin and Ryan brought me. I don’t even really know the birthday girl.”
“Neither do I,” she said. We laughed. “What do you do?” She asks.
“Well,” I say, and tell her what I hope are a few mildly impressive things, thinking a 22-year-old from Toronto visiting her sister in Hollywood might be entertained by my attempts in the film industy.
And we’re having a nice time, we really are. It’s simple, she’s just a cute girl with extraordinary skating skills, cruising through the night as the outfits and the music whisper wonderful lies about what decade we live in, and I’m confused but I know for certain we’re living in the USA.
I grab her hand. It’s not such a big thing on a roller-rink, but I like it, and I have the impression that she may be enjoying it as well. “So what do you do?” I ask.
“I’m an actress,” she says, like it’s nothing at all.
“Oh, awesome,” I say, and in my head I’m putting 2 and 2 together, but in exactly the wrong way, thinking, ‘A young actress who lives in Toronto but hasn’t moved to L.A. yet? She must not be that serious, just starting out.’ And gently I ask, “How’s it going so far?”
“It’s going really well actually,” she smiles.
“Nice,” I say, thinking, ‘Nice, she’s an optimist,’ then ask, “Think you’ll ever move to LA?”
“I like Toronto.”
“Cool.” I said this earnestly, and it meant, ‘you really don’t care about acting all that much, but that’s totally ok, I think you’re swell and I like you.’
We roll onward. Hypnotic jams populate the bubbling silence between us, and overwhelmingly I know—we are back in the USA.
And in the glorious flash of a disco-light or the glowing reflection of someone’s neon jumpsuit, I look over at her and for a moment catch a glimpse of reality.
“Woah,” I say, “you look just like this one really famous actress, um, shit—totally blanking on her name. Ah, I know this. She’s in…she’s in The Notebook, Sherlocke Holmes, tons of stuff. Oh, Wedding Crashers! Literally one of my favorite movies, can’t think of her name though. Can you?”
“Oh,” she coos, “I know who you’re talking about too, but man, I can’t think of her name either.”
“Well, you look just like her. Do you get that a lot?”
“All the time,” she confirms. We chuckle, for different reasons, and keep gliding. We’re five or ten minutes in. The small-talk stage is all gone; conversation flows naturally. That’s when I make a huge mistake.
I don’t remember why the conversation moved this way or why it slipped from my mouth so naturally, but it did: “Oh, so then how old are you?”
“34,” she replies naturally.
“What!?” I’m shocked. She looks so young. She’s funny, she’s very charming—she must be pulling my leg. “No way, you’re like…22.”
“Ok ok…” she relents, “I’m 23.”
“Hey, so am I.” Yet another commonality, I think. This is fantastic. I even spotted her lie/joke/sarcasm thing about being 34. Everything is going great. I really like this girl so far. I’m gonna get her digits for sure.
It couldn’t have been longer than 30 seconds after revealing my 23-hood, an age forever toddlerized by Blink 182, that she skated away, melding into the blurry lights and the music and the crowd and the excitement of a decade beyond my backward reach. And she’s still just crushing it, I mean owning the rink, as graceful on 8 small wheels as a ballerina in a bubble-bath. Yup. Thought about it for a while, and that’s the best metaphor.
The moment she left I realized, ‘Shit…she’s really 34.’ And so I mourned the let-down, but for only a moment, because I’m thinking, ‘In all honesty, I don’t wanna date some 34-year-old.’ All good.
And all might have been lost too. I might have never known I even met her, but for an hour later.
We’re cutting the cake outside the rink. Everyone circles around a table and there she is again in that glittering silver-scaled skirt. She lets down her bright red hair and it’s curling and bouncing all over the room. The resemblance becomes even more striking.
I turn to my friend Austin, “See that girl? What’s the name of the actress that she looks just like?”
“You mean Rachel McAdams?”
“Ah, finally. Yes. Geez—that girl looks exactly like her.”
“Sam. That is Rachel McAdams.”
I believe I had the grounds to exclaim such a thing, but I soon realized what to do. After we all sang happy birthday I approached, pretending I still didn’t know who she was. “Hey,” I said, “I think I figured out who you look like. I mean, I remembered the name. You look just like Rachel McAdams.” Her face turned as red as her hair and she started cracking up. “But I think you kind of are…Rachel McAdams.” We died of laughter.
Let’s keep in mind the overall image here—I still have about 20 helium balloons tied to my back belt loop, floating up above and behind me like a colorful cloud or a big sneaky clown. I am ridiculous in every way, so absurd I’m not even embarrassed in this moment at all. It’s too far gone.
She’s very sweet. I tell her I can’t get these balloons off of me. She’s just a sweetie—she begins to untie the balloons. It’s difficult. It’s just not working. Why did I tie them so tight? How did I even manage to tie them so tight? Why did I tie them on at all? What’s going on? Where am I? Where are scissors?
This takes an awkward amount of time. She has to enlist help in the effort. My friend Ryan comes over, and with more time and elbow, the balloons come off.
I didn’t talk to her again until the party was wrapping up. Everyone’s saying goodbye, and I’m getting ready to make my last ditch effort. I have to, I tell myself. I know full well it won’t work, but I just have to, for me, for everyone.
We hug goodbye. “You know,” I say, “I actually wish I had never found out you were Rachel McAdams, and that you had never found out I was 23.”
“Why?” she wonders.
Because then I might have asked you for your number.”
“Well, I might have given it to you,” she smirks, “but it’s too late now. We already know. It’s ruined.”
That was it. I haven’t seen her since. In a moment she swiftly moved into the realm of memories and dreams. Have I remained in the McAdams dream zone as well? Is there a mildly cougaresq compartment in there? I can only hope. I’ve tried and tried, but no matter what I do, she remains 11 years offshore, on that boat up there.
I soon found out she was newly single at the time, just a couple months out of a long relationship. Wikipedia whispered this to me.
So, Gosling, no getting mad. You had your time with her, and then I had mine. Got it? It was all fair play. What’s that you say? No, it is the same—a few years, ten minutes—doesn’t matter. You know the old saying, “Ten minutes in the roller rink is like ten years in a relationship.” Honestly, it’s love on wheels. In reality I should be mad at you. But don’t worry, we’re cool.
This article also appeared on Medium. It is published here with the permission of the author
Title photo credit: flickr
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