The sound of twenty small plastic wheels on pavement shook the narrow park path. Like a deep, elongated rumble, the sound traveled like a steady thunder that hid in the cloudless sky. They traveled in a herd this early Sunday afternoon, these five young men, all thin and lean and wearing baggy pants. They moved as they did almost every other day, together, in a pack that shook the earth with their sound. Five skateboards moved in near-unison along a tight curve in the cement path, a bend in the meandering walkway that cut through the city park for miles in each direction, going past small lakes and barely-blooming cherry blossoms and a circular equestrian field. Though the path was mostly dotted with pedestrians, the boys rode it with ferocity, unyielding in their speed. It was their highway, a lane between the bright fields of green grass and low shrubs.
On either side of the path and all around them were couples on picnic blankets and young kids chasing after plastic balls and groups of people in their early twenties lounging beneath the open sky. It was a warm sunny day, an unusual day for a city famous for its fog. And though the people they passed basked in the sunshine, the boys paid no attention to weather. It was jeans, a T-shirt, a hooded sweatshirt and a baseball cap off to the side in the sun or fog. Their lives were not ruled by the sun like the girls in their neighborhood, the girls that lay out in small bikinis when the sun made an appearance and hid when it didn’t. And they would look at the girls as they rode by, but they had no patience to sit and talk.
Like soldiers they combed the city. Skating alleyways and metal rails and stairs they came across. The people out strolling were merely obstacles. If someone could not hear the roar of their cumulative wheels, then they would shout, and soon the person would feel the impending doom of five skateboards at their back and jump off the path at the last second. Sometimes they would hear a yell fade into the distance as they skated on, someone who had not been quite fast enough, someone had not understood their urgent need for speed.
On this stretch of path, there were no obstacles, no couples holding hands or young teenage girls laughing in a tight cluster. As far as they could see, a long stretch of concrete lay before them, open and inviting. A warm wind rattled the tree tops in the distance, long, tall pines that had grown for years. Twenty wheels rolled on, carrying with them the eagerness of escape, the ecstatic impulses of five young men to explode outwards, moving ever-forward. There was no time for the girls in bikinis and the little daisies they offered. No time to admire the colors of the rainbow they had vaguely heard about. No time to be still.