Slap. Loud slap. More loud slaps. She’s at it again. The skateboard girl from across the street is out in the middle of it, practicing her kickflip. Over and over she tries, but never gets it right.  She’s seven-ish, wears her helmet, and she never gives up. I never see her smile. All I see is determination and resilience. No school for skateboard girl, so her days are spent attempting to pop up, spin the skateboard through a three-sixty underneath her, and make a smooth landing.

I know it’s a kickflip because I googled it. I’m not a skateboarder; I’m an old man imprisoned in his house by the invisible virus that’s wrecking our world. I have nothing to do but give myself a backache from hours in front of my computer—and listen to skateboard girl for stimulation from beyond these walls.

At first, I was annoyed by the noise. Her family has never been friendly, and the dad is always parking his car on the wrong side of the street, like he’s trying to block my mailbox. But the virus works on your head, even if you are not sick. What was important becomes silly, and what was not becomes meaningful. I watch the young girl improve, notice if she isn’t there, feel for her when she falls, and silently cheerlead from my upstairs window. She isn’t wasting the pandemic like I am.

One day, she nails it. No one sees but me. I want to congratulate her, even hug her. She goes right back to her practice. That night I go to my garage. Amidst the old plywood, two-by-four scraps, and dusty ambitions, I construct a wooden ramp with a six-inch rise. Before dawn I leave it on her porch. Maybe I am not useless after all.

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