Lake Tahoe, CA
We’re not right for each other. This can’t last. How could I have been so stupid, I think as I run my hands over the cool crimson surface of my brand new Atomic Vantage 95s. I let my cheek lean into the sharp bladed sides, closing my eyes and encasing the tears beneath them.
I’ve been a rookie ski patroller in the grand Sierra Nevadas for a little over 2 months. I had 2 and a half left. My heart is pitching as violently as the weather systems blowing over from the valley.
Today was the first off I’ve had in weeks, and I’d spent the first part arguing with a pot-bellied hood-winking mechanic and taking his 450 dollar estimate for fixing up my quaking-engine-light-tripping rig and turning it to a mere 65 dollar self install project, swapping a single spark plug wire.
Now with the remaining cash I had gotten from my last job I walked out on, I slide 6 hundred dollar bills across the counter at the local ski shop, feeling that this was the money my ingenuity and refusal to be punked at the auto shop had earned, and fuck I was going to buy wings with it. (Perhaps I was a bit manic too.)
The ski tech, an old grizzly giant with a voice that reminded me of a campfire, had steered me down the line of plated shiny twins earlier in the week.
“What have you been running on this season?”
I had looked at the ground, embarrassed, “An old sport set of K2 Sugar Luvs…”
They were a Christmas gift set from my parents about seven years ago at Sports Authority when our new year resolution had been to “ski more as a family”. Back then I had hated skiing. Hated the cold. Hated the snow. Now the frozen hills were my home and their echoing loneliness was my song.
I remember how his eyebrows had popped, “Seriously?”
I had been managing as a rookie patroller on my useless gray sportsters, and had gotten quite used to accepting the multiple summersaults awaiting me in anything off-piste and deep powder. I had gotten used to the laughter of fellow patrollers as I struggled to manage the weak planks under my feet as the snow bullied us down the slope. Their mocking didn’t faze me any longer, and maybe that was a useful lesson in not giving a shit. In laughing at yourself. In letting go.
But I am ready.
My heart glows as he places my new beauties on the rack to be mounted. His surprise is apparent, to see this small woman emptying her pockets after looking at the skis only briefly. I had done the math quickly in my head: I could survive on basically nothing until my next paycheck, because this was everything. Food was taking a backseat. Gas would have to be carefully rationed. All I wanted were wings.
I carry them gingerly to the car I fixed by myself, ignoring the widening abyss in my heart where the realization of my probable breakup with my firefighter from Oregon is stewing. I can’t think about it right now.
It’s time to fly.
Broke and Free in California,