When I was but a wee innocent lass back in my secondary school days (sorry, too much Downton Abbey over Memorial Day weekend), I had a huge crush on a boy. Incidentally, this was Fred. Suffice it to say he was (a little) nicer and somewhat more intriguing (he being a sophomore, and I just a tiny freshman) then.
One week in February, I was very, very excited. To my great delight, Fred had asked me if I’d want to check out the local ski resort with him that Saturday.
I considered the proposal: An intimidate day, just the two of us, on snow-covered hills, feeling the freedom and glory of gravity-induced speed and windswept hair? This was it! This was my chance to tell him how I felt! I immediately accepted his offer.
That afternoon after school, I ran home and told my mother, who smiled knowingly at my excitement and took me out to the local department store. I emerged an hour later with my first set of skiwear ever.
Yes, dear friends, you’ve surmised correctly. This occasion would mark my first time ever skiing.
Now, I’ve been a well-rounded student all my life, and I’m fairly confident in my abilities, be it book smarts or music or non sequiturs. But athletics? To wit, one unfortunate semester, I had managed to pull A’s in my AP/IB/Honors English, Music, Calculus, Spanish and History courses… only to pull a B in Phys. Ed. So whatever induced my infatuation-addled mind to think I could, that day, sway the heretofore unswayed Fred into thinking me an attractive catch and returning my amorous sentiments, I have no clue.
What was even worse was that my impromptu skiing instructor was a snowboarder. (Admittedly, this fact really plays no direct part in this story. But it still seemed worth noting. For effect.)
Now, as much as I was a dumb teenager, I realized the magnitude of these obstacles at once when I reached the top of that first hill and stared down the incline. I’m going to die, was my first thought.
Fortunately, Fred was reassuring. “You’re going to fall at least a million today, so just make sure you fall on your side instead of on your butt.” “But your knees more. So you look like you’re pooping. Good.” “As long as you avoid black ice, you’ll be fine.” “There isn’t too much black ice today.”
Once I’d mustered enough courage, Fred looked on as I took the first plunge. I slid down the hill. “I think I’m getting it!” I shouted ecstatically… until I ran into a bush.
Fortunately after that first mishap, I managed to get the hang of amateur downhilling fairly quickly and even earned myself Fred’s praise. Perhaps too much praise. Fred, tired of the default hill, immediately suggested we upgrade to the intermediate hill. Not one to back down from a challenge, I put on a brave face and accepted.
Now, to get to the lift that would take us up to the intermediate trail required that we travel halfway down the default hill before making a U-turn into a secondary lift area. Fred led the way, sliding gracefully into the arena on his snowboard. I made my steady S’s down the slope, confident in my newfound abilities.
I thought back over the day’s events, from him holding me up by the waist as he steadied me on my skis, to our poking and play fighting on multiple lift rides. I think he’s really coming over, I thought to myself, smiling. With that thought, I slid my right leg into position to make the last left turn.
That’s when I hit a serious patch of black ice. Suddenly, I felt what had once been a gentle breeze turn into a rabid storm’s wind raging into my face. I hurdled along like a nuclear missile, bent stiffly into my pooping position with absolutely no idea how to stop myself. Terrified, I tried pressing down on my left foot to see if I might be able to push myself out of the sharp left I was taking, but immediately stopped as I felt my skis threaten to hydroplane my legs into the splits. But the terror of that was nothing compared to what I saw when I finally worked up the courage to look up.
Just before me was a massive log fence. For maximum comprehension of just how massive, please reference the image above. That very fence I watched helplessly as it grew exponentially larger and larger in front of me in a matter of seconds, whimpering as I realized I had to accept the inevitable. I squeezed my eyes shut.
My face made nary a sound as it crashed into one of the log rungs of the fence. I felt my body go stiff as a board as I fell over straight back into the snow. As I lay there, splayed out like a little fallen star, unable even to emit the sounds to express the extreme pain emanating from my head. So instead I kept perfectly still, blinking as I contemplated how blue the sky looked that day.
From the other side of the fence, I heard a familiar voice.
“Irene?” Fred called out tentatively. “You alright?”
“Warg,” I tried, wincing at the blazing fire sparked by the movement of my mouth. I swallowed with another wince, then readied myself to speak properly this time. “I-I-I’m okay-y-y…” I managed.
“Nothinnnngggggg,” I sighed, then reluctantly lifted myself up from the snow. “Be right there.”
When I showed up, Fred took one look at my face and burst out laughing. A few minutes later in the bathroom I could see why. An enormous red boo boo now proudly lay claim to chin, bruise and lacerations and everything. I sighed disappointedly as I decided to put off my love confession for another day.