On his Instagram, figure skater Patrick Chan poses with a dog. I don’t think it’s his dog, but it’s a dog nonetheless. I think Patrick Chan is the kind of man who looks sideways at everything first to make sure but also the kind of man who indulges in emojis. I think Patrick Chan wakes up for 5am jogs &, hours later, when my friend Karla slaps at her alarm, he has coffee ready for her, is stretching in black tights.
At twenty-seven, Patrick Chan is retired from the Olympics. A Capricorn, though, he no doubt has something planned. Karla is currently studying for her LSATs because Kavanaugh’s on the Supreme Court & this is how she funnels her rage—rage plus seven binged seasons of Scandal. I don’t think Patrick Chan watches Scandal but I bet he watched early Grey’s Anatomy & I bet he had a crush on Mer’s little sister, Lexie. She dies in season eight & after that Patrick Chan closed his laptop & never watched another episode. For the next few months he skated for her, throwing himself in arcs, higher, higher. For the next few months he wept quietly on airplanes.
Patrick Chan is graceful in grief; it thrums through his bones.
Now that Patrick Chan is done competing, he is able to think less about calories, velocity, podiums. Still, when he picks Karla up from law school, he’ll sometimes have that look. Karla won’t ask about it until they’re on a weekend trip to Whistler, when Karla will tug on Patrick Chan’s jacket zipper at the top of Blackcomb, clouds of wet snow rolling backwards, up like smoke. Patrick Chan never misses glory, never asks in excess, is glad to let himself fall down slopes on two small skis. But it hurts, he’ll say sideways, gesturing at Karla, himself, the mountains unmoved, this whole world, indifferent, below.
This poem was originally published in Room Magazine vol 42, issue 2 as the First Place Winner of the 2018 Short Forms Contest.