‘VASK8R’ | Starting Over at the Local Roller Rink

by | Jun 12, 2024 | COMMUNITY, NIGHTLIFE, PHOTOGRAPHY, SHORT STORIES

The rules are simple: don’t get in anyone’s way and try to look good while doing it.

The warehouse off Williamsburg Blvd mimics many of the same buildings near the Richmond International Airport. But on Wednesday night, when many of the local businesses have locked the doors and shut off the lights, the parking lot of the roller skating rink is anything but empty.

I moved to Richmond, Virginia just as the summer leaves began to fall from the trees. The change of the seasons reflected back my own: a move from one city to another for a new job. All with the hope of a new adventure. But when the day erodes the working hours to night, the thrill of adventure wears off and the loneliness feels all the sharper.

I’m Virginian by birth, but my only interaction with Richmond till this point was dropping off my brother at his VCU dorm more than a decade ago. I knew less than a handful of people in Richmond: a highschool friend and his girlfriend, a girl who went to my college, and her friend.

Having spent the better part of a year trapped behind a desk reading all sorts of poems to pass the time, I figured any type of adventure was well worth it. Bukowski once remarked, “When nobody wakes you up in the morning and when nobody waits for you at night and when you can do whatever you want. What do you call it, freedom or loneliness?” And while good in theory, the light of a hopeful escape can grow glaring in the face of reality.

A few boxes of books, a hand-me-down couch from family, and a stray duffel bag of shoes filled the car that moved me.

“And you’re keeping those?” my dad remarked at the white roller skates with bright pink wheels–a covid purchase.

“Of course,” I said.

So I sat, with my bag of shoes, 4 numbers to call, and the gnawing reality of my decision to make a new home for the year: Richmond.

Richmond roller rink story and photos by Olivia Alexandra Bolling_RVA Magazine 2024
Photo by Olivia Alexandra Bolling

It’s Wednesday night when I pull into the full parking lot of the roller skating rink. The music can be heard the second the car door swings open. Quickly, I close the car door on myself and pull down the sunvisor sitting above the steering wheel, and like I do on most of my first dates, look myself in the mirror, take a deep breath, and look to the sky, “please don’t let me fall on my ass,” I whisper.

I approach the building hesitantly. Like a neon beacon in the dead of night, the pulsing purple and yellow lights warm the path. My torso reverberates, and I clutch the tote bag carrying my white roller shoes, feeling like some sort of imposter.

Before I have a chance to reconsider, a woman in her 50’s walks up behind me, passes me and swings open the front door. She stops and holds it open behind her.

Richmond roller rink story and photos by Olivia Alexandra Bolling_RVA Magazine 2024
Photo by Olivia Alexandra Bolling

I can’t turn back now.
I enter the building to a small entryway with two doors on either side and a small glass ticketing window. “ADULT SKATE NIGHT WEDNESDAY $10”
I hold out my $10 to the small opening at the bottom of the window.
The man behind the glass asks, “You got your own skates?”
I nod my head.
He holds a thin piece of paper and stares at me.
“Your wrist?”
I stick my hand out to the gap in the plexiglass. He attaches the paper bracelet to my wrist.
“Enjoy!” he says, then nods to the door beside him.
I turn to face the door then pull it towards me.

Richmond roller rink story and photos by Olivia Alexandra Bolling_RVA Magazine 2024
Photo by Olivia Alexandra Bolling

The darkness of the room gives way in the pulsing lights of the disco balls and LED strips. Every corner is filled. Old friends call each other across the room. The line at the concessions is filled with patrons laughing as they order bottles of water.

Richmond roller rink story and photos by Olivia Alexandra Bolling_RVA Magazine 2024
Richmond roller rink story and photos by Olivia Alexandra Bolling_RVA Magazine 2024
Photo by Olivia Alexandra Bolling

I lace up my shoes and hesitantly make my way over the carpeted seating area to the opening of the rink. I take a step out—let my steps turn glides.

Richmond roller rink story and photos by Olivia Alexandra Bolling_RVA Magazine 2024
hoto by Olivia Alexandra Bolling

A stiff jawed, tattooed, six foot something man swirls past me, like bones and gravity were mere suggestions. He links arms with the man to his right, then his left and as a trio they begin to twist, kick, and sway in unison.

Richmond roller rink story and photos by Olivia Alexandra Bolling_RVA Magazine 2024
Photo by Olivia Alexandra Bolling

Just then, a woman who must be in her mid thirties spins in front of me. One leg planted on the ground, as she crouches, the other in a cast, she sticks out in front of her. Before I can even comprehend, she arises from her spin and turns to face me and begins to skate backward as if nothing more natural in the world.

“You’re incredible!” I shout to her over the music.

She shines a smile, “Well when you’ve been doing it as long as I have, you pick up on some tricks. Thank you!”

“Even with a brace! You’re the most graceful thing I’ve ever seen!”

She looks down, shakes her head “It’s the cost of the sport. Don’t worry you’ll get better. Growth isn’t always easy.”

She turns forward and before skating a head says, “Loosen your hips, and let the music take you where it wants to.”

Richmond roller rink story and photos by Olivia Alexandra Bolling_RVA Magazine 2024
hoto by Olivia Alexandra Bolling

My eyes are drawn towards the middle of the floor where a crowd gathers, spinning, twirling, twisting. One goes, then another crosses back. It’s a flurry of skates, limbs and bodies.

Richmond roller rink story and photos by Olivia Alexandra Bolling_RVA Magazine 2024
Richmond roller rink story and photos by Olivia Alexandra Bolling_RVA Magazine 2024
Richmond roller rink story and photos by Olivia Alexandra Bolling_RVA Magazine 2024
Photos by Olivia Alexandra Bolling

For the first time in months my cheeks hurt from smiling. In the circle around me, it doesn’t matter that my apartment is unfurnished, that I barely know a soul, or whether I made the right decision in moving. For a moment it is not loneliness, it is freedom.

Richmond roller rink story and photos by Olivia Alexandra Bolling_RVA Magazine 2024
hoto by Olivia Alexandra Bolling

I spend the next 3 hours skating in one large circle until my thighs begin to shake. I do not spin. I do not go backwards. Even if I had wanted to, I could not. I let the music move me forward, one glide at a time.

Story and photos by Olivia Alexandra Bolling
Edited by Sabrina Sanchez

Olivia Alexandra Bolling

Olivia Alexandra Bolling

Olivia Alexandra Bolling is a visual artist based out of Richmond, VA. Studying filmmaking in New York City, she cut her teeth doing experimental student films and working in commercial advertising. Inspired by true human stories she went from shooting for Vogue and assisting editing on projects for Consulate NYC, to shooting with a disaster relief nonprofit. As a documentarian, her favorite thing is getting to meet and capture the weird, exciting, and resilient stories of the people and places she is lucky enough to encounter. She can be reached at oliviaalexandrabolling@gmail.com




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