1960: Breaking the Ice

Sarah Liriano, guest writer

I thought I knew what real pain felt like until I saw him lying there. All at once, everything that I ever wanted was taken away from me in a split second. Someone who will soon be forgotten to the rest of the world, will remain in my heart forever. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemy’s, but the silence of our friends.” He silently saved me, but I could not save him.
* * *
One year prior
This morning was unusually peaceful; I stepped out the front door to the sun’s outstretched arms warming my face despite the bitter, winter wind. I closed the door behind me, stepped off the porch, and made my way to the ice skating rink. It has always been a dream of mine to participate in the Winter Olympics; and this year, 1960, my dream will become a reality. My trainer believes I have a real chance of winning gold. My best friend, Carol, shares the same dream as me.
“Rose!” Carol yelled, “Wait for me!” Her house is on my way to the ice skating rink, so we always meet up on our way to training.
“Look at the clouds dancing in the sky!” Carol exclaimed after finally catching up to me. We mediated to ourselves quietly as the beauty of the day masked the universe’s cruelty.
“Hello, ladies!” shouted a tall, blue-eyed stranger, accompanied by three other boys, appearing to be about nineteen. He came up next to me and put his arm around my shoulder and held me tightly. Quickly, discomfort started flowing through my body as I tried to pull away from him.
“What? You’d rather freeze in this weather than let me keep you warm?” He demanded.
I wanted to voice my discomfort, but I feared that would make him more angry. I looked over at Carol to see that she was just as scared as me. The devilish look in his eyes proved his intentions. I knew I needed to escape before the situation got out of control. My eyes quickly scanned the environment as I spotted a tall, light-skinned man with chocolate brown eyes that melts from the sunshine’s kisses. We made eye contact; thankfully, he read the fear in my crystal, blue eyes as he came to my rescue.
“What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be hanging out with someone your own color?” the bully asked my light-skinned savior.
Ignoring the question, the stranger looks at me and asks, “Is this boy bothering you?” I nodded as the man proceed to throw a punch at my perpetrator. Caught off guard, the boy that was holding me let go, touched his nose with his hand and saw blood.
“Oh, it’s on,” he threatened. But before he could even throw a punch, my hero punched him again and knocked him to the ground. At this point, the white boy’s friends had vanished. Others saw the accident and the police arrived at the scene.
“What is going on here?” the officer asked.
“This gorilla just attacked me for no reason!” cried the white boy.
In total shock, Carol and I just stood there and watched as they arrested our hero, but we did what any person would’ve done at that time: continue on with our day. Though I couldn’t defend him, the light-skin angel penetrated my thoughts throughout the rest of my day.
When I got home that night, I decided I was going to do something about the whole situation. Of course, the only solution to this dilemma was to bail him out of jail, so I decided that I would steal my parents’ credit card.
All night, I could not sleep as my conscience waged a war inside my head. He was black. I had never aided a black person before. My parents always emphasized how worthless they were and undeserving of anything good. For the life of me, I could not fathom his reasons behind my rescue. He was a guardian angel, one that God Himself sent for me.
With my hood over my head, I stealthily snuck into the police station. I confronted the cop on duty and started processing my hero’s bail. I pondered what I would say to him, but before I could say anything, he walked out the door. What an infuriating man! He was not going to say anything to me? Not even a thank you?
Chasing him down the street, I yelled,” you’d think a girl would get a simple thank you for helping you out!”
“Oh, you want me to say thank you? Well . . . thanks,” he turned around and bowed sarcastically.
I could not believe him! Why was he being this way? I ran in front of him and demanded for a justification of his behavior.
“Justify my behavior? I am so sick and tired of you privileged people! Just last week four black kids were harassed just for sitting down in a whites-only restaurant, and just last night I got arrested for helping a woman out? I did you a favor and you did me one— now we can continue to hate each other like the rest of the world.”
I ran in front of him and got in his way until he hit me with a soft smile. “You really just won’t leave me alone, will you?” He gently replied, “I’ll give you a chance, white girl.”
We hung out every single day after my ice skating training in a nearby park. He inspired me like no one else. He was so sweet and historical. He motivated me to succeed in everything I did in my life.
* * *
“Rose,” George smiled at me, “You are the best thing that has ever happened to me.” There was so much we did together, from building forts in the ninth largest snowfall in NYC to watching Marilyn Monroe’s legendary performances on T.V. while my parents weren’t home. We fell in love— it was the sweetest, yet the most difficult thing I ever experienced.
I was afraid of what my parents would say about us. I prayed to God to let people see that negroes deserved the exact rights as us, because, after all, we are all humans. We spent so much time together to the point where he he suddenly became more important to me then ice skating itself. Ice skating was my escape, my passion, the only thing I could be proud of; but, all of a sudden, George started to fill its place.
One day, while George and I were at the park, my mom snuck up on me enraged and demanded, “Rose! What do you think you’re doing here, associating yourself with this gorilla?”
“Mom, what are you doing here? You scared me!”
“You forgot your lunch at home so I decided to bring it to you on my way to the market. I thought you’d be training and not wasting your time talking to the likes of HIM!”
I didn’t know what to say. Before I could do anything, my mom grabbed me by the arm and yanked me away from my George. She did not say a word to me. I was shown ignorance, shame, and disappointment. When we got home, we eagerly awaited Dad’s return home from work.
“Good evening, Eve and Rosey,” Dad said. Neither Mom or I said a word.
“Can I not get a word out of you both tonight?”
“Why don’t you tell him what tragic sin you have committed, Rose,” Mother said.
“I? sinning?! Just because I love a man of color! I just have nothing to say to either of you! You arrogant people! You are the sinners treating him like he is nothing . . . like he is nothing to me!”
I ran to my room and cried myself to sleep that night. The next morning I forcefully got myself out of bed and headed to ice skating training.
Though the sun smiles on my face, it was unable to warm up my broken heart. I could no longer see the beauty in the sky, or feel the sun teasing my wind-whipped cheeks. I saw a beautiful white bird looking for food on the sidewalk and a black bird coming down giving him worms. They were both different, yet they learned to love their indifferences and love one another just like God loves all His children.
“Rose!” Carol screamed.
“Carol!! Are you ready for training?” I asked, pretending to be alright.
“Yes, I can’t believe the Olympics are coming so soon!!” We continued to walk towards the arena.
People started screaming and running in all sorts of directions. Fire steamed from the subway bombing as smoke arose towards the city. A sudden fear grasped my body as I remembered George’s announcement of catching the subway to come and meet me after practice. I ran towards the subway without a second thought.
“Rose! What are you doing?” yelled Carol, “You can’t go in there!”
“George . . . George! George!!” I yelled as tears cascaded down my face. I found him lying right next to the train and quickly rushed over to him and rested his head on my lap. Suffering from blood loss, he softly whispered, “You need to go . . . you can’t stay here . . . leave.”
“You just focus on me, babe. Doctor! I need a Doctor! You can’t leave me here, George, you can’t.” I watched his beautiful, brown eyes melt away like the sunset.
* * *
Some might say I broke my heart the second I started loving George, but loving him was the best thing that ever happened to me. He once shared with me this verse: “I found the one my heart loves” (New International Version, Song of Solomon 3:14). My best friend, Carol, and I participated in the Olympics during the cold winter of 1960. My passion for skating flourished from my dear George’s love and encouragement; I dedicated my skating routines to him. I will never forget his inspiring character. I can not wait for a brighter future in our society– just like the sparkly hope I saw in George’s sparkling, brown eyes when he left my world abruptly.
Works Cited
“Figure Skating at the 1960 Squaw Valley Winter Games: Women’s Singles.” Olympics at Sports-Reference.com, www.sports-reference.com/olympics/winter/1960/FSK/womens- singles.html. n.d. Web. Accessed 16 Jan. 2018.
Katz, William Loren. World War II to the New Frontier, 1940-1963. Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1993. Print.
Monteith, Sharon. American Culture in the 1960s. Edinburgh Univ. Press, 2011. Print.
“On This Day – History, Film, Music and Sport.” OnThisDay.com, www.onthisday.com/. n.d. Web. 16 Jan. 2018.
The Bible. New Living Translation, 2nd ed., Tyndale House, 2005.
The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Carol Heiss.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 28 Apr. 2017, www.britannica.com/biography/Carol-Heiss. Web. 16 Jan. 2018.