Red flags

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It was the downhill that made me fall in love when I was a teenager. The wheels on my board became wings. I would fly down the Walk and no one could stop me. I was an expert lamp post avoider, old lady dodger, wheelie bin goarounder!

So you would think… you would think… I would be brilliant at noticing red flags, instead of going head first into them like a total rocket.

The girls that skated at Saughton were really sound. They didn’t give a shit that I was a total pleb when it came to even the most basic of tricks. We all went to different high schools and there were only five or six of us who were regulars.

We had our own uniform of comfy jeans and baggy hoodies. Sometimes I would catch the boys watching. I could never work out if they were impressed by our skills or just being rank pervs.

To be honest I think it just proper pissed them off that we weren’t sitting at the side but were front line, seeing our bruised elbows and grazed knees as souvenirs along the way.

First thing Finn said to me was, “you’re different.” Red flag Numero Uno! But me being a dafty I took it as a compliment cos I would see the wee dolly birds in their pristine Nike Vans sitting watching, and could not relate at all to their proud display of tits and perfectly painted faces.

Wish I knew then we were all on the same side.

Cos us that skated were seen as sort of substitute lads we heard all the stuff they said:

“That Kimmy wants it like...”

“Let me know if it’s worth the bother I might have a wee go after.”

I used to laugh along with them. Feeling sick but thinking it was cos those girls were slags for letting themselves be used like that. It didn’t click in my head that we were all just fifteen. They were in their twenties. We still called them boys.

I liked Finn. He wore the nicest trainers. And he liked me. I’d never been told that I was beautiful before. And he had a car. Took me to the Maccy D drive through. He sent me Paramore songs and kissed me softly. I ate it all up like Nando’s on pay day.

Honestly, I could list all of the red flags. But it would take me days.

Somehow, I found myself sitting on the sidelines at the skate park, all anxious when he hadn’t texted me back. He told me I was shit at skating. That I looked like a boy.

He smirked at me when we had sex for the first time. And when I told him it hurt he said, “that’s so hot babe.”

I stopped wearing my jeans and hoodies and started to try and make him notice me again with fake eye lashes and tan.

Blamed myself for not being cool enough when he started ignoring me and holding hands with another girl a week after we’d had sex. Heard one of the boys laughing behind my back saying, “heard she gives shite blowjobs.” I started accepting the passed around vodka bottle. I got into fights and screamed at anyone who looked at me.

One day in History this sound teacher, Ms McLaren, was telling us about the history of the bicycle. She said it was the first time women had a bit of independence. They could go anywhere on them. Didn’t have to wait to be taken anywhere by a man.

I thought about me and the other girls who skated, freed by our boards. I had that, I was just discovering it. And it never occurred to me that someone would try and take it away.

That night I went down the Walk for the first time in ages. All the way out to Newhaven. I felt safe in my armour of hoody and jeans. My hair went mad around my face only kept in place by a beanie hat.

It was down near Asda. I could hear the sound of wheels and boards against wood. A few women were spraying this huge picture on a wall - all these girls, holding their boards and each other up, giving whoever was looking at the wall the finger.

When one of the skaters said, “alright?”, I stood with my board in my hand and smiled a yes.

For the first time, I was really free. ■

Illustration: Elise Boath

So you would think, you would think, I would be brilliant at noticing red flags, instead of going head first into them

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