He steps into the rink.

Broad daylight reflects upon the clear, untouched ice, and he’s sure when he looks back to the trail of his blades, he could trace the exact path that lead him here. It’s been too long since he had the whole rink to himself, too long since he looked back at his trials, and could tell clearly how he spined, glided, leaped and landed.

Crisscrossed lines and curves tangling together in a unified mass, something boarding between a five-year-old’s drawing and a impressionism masterpiece is what he’s used to, now. Pop music and swirling lights, stages half the size of a Olympic rink, a female partner knowing less about skating than a summer flower does about winter. He’s used to them now, even enjoys them, sometimes. 

But he can’t say how good it feels to take a glance back, to experience how everything used to be, when he was on top of the game.

He glides around once, letting his legs familiarize with the ice once again, and stops at the center of the rink. 

The stadium is empty, but somehow, the seats seemed to have grown faces of their own. They stare blankly at him, like a full house of judges, waiting for him to make the next move, waiting to see if he was brave enough to do what he had done million of times, before the surgery.

A triple loop.

If he was sixteen, he’d say he could do this asleep. But the reality was, being twenty-seven, he retired from competitive skating four years ago, and just had a surgery to remove the bones that won him the Olympics.

He had asked to keep the bones they removed.

In his right thigh, he feels the weight of the titanium. The pain is nonexistent now, though he senses it, still. But he could do this. He needs to do this. Or the pain would never stop, and he would never move on.

Inhale, exhale. 

He kicks the ice lightly, knowing that there will be no turning back, whether he lands or falls.

At the first turn, he accelerates.

He feels the ice trembling beneath his skates, unable to hold his weight, as if one single jump could cut through the thin layer, and he would sink into the depth. He tells himself it’s all in his imagination. Only applause, only standing ovation could have shaken the ice, and he hasn’t felt that in years, hasn’t felt that since 2003.

“You would have to kill me to make me stop skating.” He silently repeats the words he had said, four years back. And fear is no longer recognizable - he could have failed ten thousand times, and he would still be here, in the rink, on the ice, gliding into position for a triple loop, whether he was sixteen, twenty-two, or twenty-seven.

Lifting his arms, he gets ready for the jump.

He hears the music of Ancient Lands, recalls being in the center of the spotlights, the focus of thousands of pairs of eyes, and remembers giving the best of his performance in the rink of Salt Lake City.

He could do it again.

In his right thigh, he feels nothing. No pain to distract him, no metal to pull him down.

He leaps.