She was not dressed in her normal Atlanta Rollergirl regalia—ripped fishnets, short and sexy ruffled pettipants, and padding at the elbows and knees—but she was a sight to see nonetheless, with her hair long and unbound, her normally round eyes crinkled into half-moons of joy, and her face alight in a way that can only happen when you are precisely in your element. My daughter and I were at the very top of the bleachers—stuck there, really. We would have gone down to meet Hinman if there had been any openings in the crowd. But if there’s one thing an Atlanta Rollergirl has, it’s the ability to find an opening when there looks to be none. So of course Hinman started the ascent. It was really quite the visual, this woman making her way upward, half climbing on and half being carried by the shoulders of the audience, laughing and slipping and getting up again and finally arriving at my side.
“Hollis, it’s me,” she said, as she ascended. “It’s me, Katy Hinman . . . Bat L. Royale.”
Like I needed to be told who she was. Of course this was Bat L. Royale, the infamous blocker for the Toxic Shocks, one of the four teams in the Atlanta Rollergirls league. Bat L. Royale, who skates like a freight train on the flat track, blocking opponents to create openings so her teammates can score. No wonder she could climb the audience like it was a deserted staircase. This was Bat L. Royale! The Rollergirl who, at the commencement of a regional bout last year, when it was discovered that the recording of the national anthem was missing, got up and burst into song, leading the crowd in a rousing a cappella version. They’ve never resorted to a recording since. Of course this was Bat L. Royale.
In fact, we’d come specifically to meet Royale—ahem, Hinman—a once-timid professor and theologian turned church pastor and Rollergirl crowd favorite. It was because of her I finally began attending the matches in the Yaarab Shrine Center’s auditorium on Ponce, where ARG sets up its roller rink for home bouts. I say “finally” because my friends had harangued me for years to go, but I usually had an obligation that involved motherhood in some capacity. And I say this knowing that the friends haranguing me were often mothers themselves—but whatever. When they told me about Bat L. Royale, I became intrigued. I sought her out and asked her to meet me, but really I wanted my daughter to meet Hinman, whose path to reach us, by the way, could not have been better if it were planned.
“Look! Look!” I said to my girl excitedly. “Bat L. Royale!”
My daughter sat transfixed, gazing upon Hinman’s visage. We’d been watching her exploits on YouTube for a while, and my girl’s reaction to Hinman was even more reverent than it was when I was able to finagle her a face-to-face with the Jonas Brothers.
Finally she reached us. “Hi, Mae,” Hinman said to my daughter. “Do you skate?”