I knew it would be this way. I knew Dennis would want to get out on his skis as soon as the sun peaked over the hills and I would prefer to stay bundled in blankets and flipping through television channels, just inches away from my mom’s cooking. I also knew I’d feel guilty about that and would end up throwing myself off a mountain so Dennis could satisfy his desire to ski. I think love works like that: one person doing something she doesn’t totally want to do so the other can go have good time. And what happens in the end? Pain. Nothing but pain. I’m making it sound worse than it was and indeed we had a good time but today I’m really wondering why I didn’t fight harder for the Day on the Couch, why I folded so quickly.
We did a half-day yesterday at Smuggler’s Notch. I’m not a skier, but Dennis and my best friend Drew are. I’m a snowboarder and have loved the sport since I first strapped a board to my feet five years ago. In these past five years, I haven’t had many opportunities to use my board since while living in New Haven I worked every weekend, and when I left New Haven, I moved to Brazil. And since they don’t even have snow there, I’ve been away from the sport for almost two years. In fact, the last time I used my board I was in Utah for the Sundance Film Festival in January of 2006 and the snow there is a delicious powder so much so that I looked forward to falling just so I could land in it. Long story short: I’m out of practice.
So yesterday, for my first time out in 23 months, I strapped my board to my feet and promptly fell no less than eleven times getting to the lift. And unlike falling in the glorious powder puffs of Utah, falling here in Vermont is similar to falling on concrete. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how much fun that isn’t. So before I made it to the lift, I’d fallen, taken off my board, walked myself to the ticket counter, and scouted out the closest bar where I told Dennis and Drew they could find me after my first run.
I know myself well. Oh what hell it was getting used to the board again. Some people can just strap on and go and it’s (ooh, I just read that. “Strap on and go”? That’s not how I meant it. Get your head out of the gutter) not a problem. But for other, like myself, it’s a whole process of finding my balance, finding space on the hill, and finding the courage within to throw myself down the hill and not care what I look like. I knew it would take at least one run to get used to the feeling, and I also expected myself to bitch and moan about myself the whole time. Dennis and Drew were being kind and sticking near me, but when I’d taken my thirty-ninth fall in about sixteen meters of hill, I yelled at both of them to “Leave me alone! Just go! Save yourselves!” they were wise enough to take my orders and left me very well alone. At that point, I felt free to swear and be sloppy on the hill. And wouldn’t you know? As soon as they left, I stopped falling and floated my way down the trail, a few minor spills along the way.
I knew, of course, that at the end of the trail was the bar. And so as soon as I was off the trail on flat ground, I ripped my board off and made a bee-line for the bar where I waited patiently for my buddies to show up. I berated myself for being such a wuss on the hill and told myself to buck up because I’d have to do it again and I wouldn’t allow myself to be so pitiful next time. Before I knew it, Dennis showed up.
“What happened? You were down the hill in like a minute and a half! You were right behind us!”
“No I wasn’t. It took me a few minutes to get down. You guys were well ahead of me.”
“No we weren’t! We were at the end of the lift line when we saw you come down!”
“Are you sure it was me?”
“Positive. We saw you head right for the bar. We knew it was you.”
I couldn’t argue. We had a beer and talked for a little bit and then the boys went back out for more runs while I sat guiltily in the bar and listened to Fun Times Charley sing a medley of pretty good songs. Just as I was debating whether or not I should go out for one more run, I headed into the ski shop and saw a helmet on sale for 50% off which I promptly bought and felt it was the exact thing that would make it possible for me to go up again. And no less than ten minutes later, I found myself on a lift with Dennis and Drew headed for our final run down the now-icy slope toward the parking lot.
I felt much safer with the helmet, so safe in fact that I
came in second in won the Secret Race to the Bottom, beating Dennis by a full fifteen seconds. Sure, there was some sliding involved, on my back, on my stomach, on basically any surface but my board, but the important thing was, I won. Dennis and Drew didn’t know it, but I congratulated them on a job well done and told them better luck next time and that I hoped to see them out on the slopes again real soon.