I skied over to the bottom of the lift, timing my speed so that I could ski right past the “wait here” line and up to the loading line without stopping. Done right, you come to a smooth stop right as the chair comes up behind you.
It was nighttime; patches of light dotted the dark trails. It’s a strange thing skiing at night. especially when the resort is near empty. The attendants, tucked into their houses at the tops and bottoms of the lifts can stay warm. They waved at me as I loaded and I hardly noticed the other skier come up beside me and slip onto the chair. The night was biting, and on this old lift that crawled along like it was paid by the hour, I was going to get cold. I was glad I had someone to talk to and make the trip go faster.
My companion was a teenage boy, but he didn’t plop down and sit with the usual swagger. He wasn’t even listening to music, so maybe he would talk a little. That was an understatement.
Before I could say hello, he spoke, almost pleading, “Sir, can I ask your advice?” He looked down at this skis and waited for me to reply.
I’ve ridden with plenty of teenage boys and when they are not together, their testosterone levels multiplied by orders of magnitude, they were usually polite and even chatty. But something was wrong with this one. “Sure, what’s wrong buddy?”
“Well sir, I was skiing with my date.” I was halfway to understanding the problem already. “And she won’t get on the lift.”
“Well that is going to be a problem.” The resort was top-down, meaning to get to the lodge and parking lots you had to ride the lift back up. There was nothing at the bottom of the lifts but miles of forest. “Is she at the bottom of this lift?”
“Then why are you here instead of with her?” This was not scolding…I was genuinely surprised.
“I told her we were wasting skiing time and she said I should ‘just go’.” He couldn’t see me roll my eyes under my helmet and goggles.
“That’s not what she meant son. That is not what she meant at all.”
He nodded. “I figured that out sir.”
We were quiet for a moment, as I tried to figure out what to tell him. The chair was crawling along, clattering slowly past each tower; we rode mostly in the darkness. We both looked at the panty tree, which by some quirk was brightly lit from one of the few lights along the lift line. Looking to break the awkward silence I asked him “why do suppose they call them panty trees? I never see any panties. Just bras. ” Not wanting to come out of his self-imposed downer cave he only shrugged.
“Do you like her a lot?”
He nodded, “Yes sir. We only started dating a few weeks ago. She lives down the block and I had a giant crush on her. I can’t believe she went out with me and now I’ve blown it.”
I didn’t have much time as the lift was nearing the top and the cold was making my feet numb. I didn’t want to hang around consoling him on top of the mountain with the cold night wind whipping around and through my clothes. Skiing is warm…standing around is cold. “Okay son. I’m gonna lay it on the line: you’re probably dead meat. If she really likes you though she may forgive you.”
“But how? She was really pissed and called me some bad names.”
“I bet she did. I want you to ski back to where she is. And don’t take Ashbury. Take the quickest way down.” Ashbury was a popular trail that went in and out of the woods and had a lot of narrow twisty turns. It was fun and the reason most people rode this lift, but it was a long trail.
He whined a bit, “But she just ignored me before.”
“And she’s going to ignore you this time as well. Is she comfortable loading the lift alone?”
“No, she’s afraid of it. “
“Good, she will still be there then. When you get there, ski up to her and if she waves you off just stand somewhere close and wait. If she likes you, like you hope, eventually she is going to let you know you’ve been an ass.”
I looked at him and his face was screwed into a knot. I thought about when I was his age and all the end-of-the-world for sure drama I had lived through if not generated. I knew it would be alright, and even if it wasn’t alright it would still be alright. I lifted the bar and we both raised our ski tips and scooted forward off the chair and down the unloading ramp. I chuckled to myself. He was awkward on his skis. “Maybe you should go down Ashbury after all” Ashbury was a blue intermediate run. It was cold and windy, all the snow had blown off the steeper trails leaving spots of boiler plate ice. If he went down an expert run he might break his fool neck.
He nodded vigorously “I think you’re right sir.”
“And one more thing.”
“What’s that sir?”
“Do you have money to buy her dinner?”
“Make it a good one.”
He thanked me and skied off. Watching him I realized he must have been desperately trying to impress her but it must have been like a dog teaching a cat to play the piano. No wonder she was frustrated. I often wonder what happened, but I am rooting for him. He was a good kid. It would be wild if they wound up dating and getting married and raising children.
I’ll take some Karmic credit for that if they did.
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