The Girls by Emma Cline


It was either dirty or clean, and I welcomed those binaries, the way they shored up a day.

We are gathered, the parents, in a frozen parking lot waiting for our sons and daughters to spill from the steaming roller skating rink where they have spent the last two hours in varying stages of hilarity, their wheels ever turning and in motion. We, the parents, are listening to Adele, the Eagles, Billy Joel, or a late-night talk show host solving the pressing problems of our world. Some of us feel self congratulatory—we have stayed awake until 10 p.m. Some of us remember the smell, the slick excitement of sweat, the mystery of new arms, the smell of someone else’s laundry detergent filling our nose and our entire bowl of world. We remember being young. Some of us don’t. Some of us are distracted by taxes, bills, long stretches of taut silence, and professional neglect. The burden can be sharp. Friday nights are meant to soften the edge of the week, but this Friday night we are in service. We are waiting in the roller skating parking lot. When did roller skating become cool again? We missed the moment. But our children didn’t, and they are too young to drive, so we are granted the knowledge. We are granted the chance to live life just a little bit over again. But not really. We are tools in their toolbox. We drive home with our precious and quiet cargo slumped in the seat next to us, their fingers choosing the songs that choose the mood in the car. And it’s not Adele, it’s not the Eagles, it’s something with a beat we can almost translate, almost, almost, not quite. Not quite.

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