Falling As Sport

I had been thinking of Sonny Bono. Was that so wrong?
Did I do the things I did because “I Got You Babe” had been running constantly in my head, jumbled lines I never knew and all, since I bought the lift ticket? They say our love will never die, hmmm hmmm hmmm hmmm hmm hmmm hm hm hm hmmm, Babe! I got you babe!
I had gone skiing with her. A woman I’d wanted to leave for months and whom I had allowed to take me up a mountain with no way to get down but to, basically, fall. Was I so wrong to have been so frightened?
That’s all skiing is, you know. Skiing is artful falling. Skiing is falling, made sport. Like falling, gravity is at work, and, like falling, the risk of breaking oneself is imminent: not just real. Skiing is falling for rich people.
Do you know how many times you have to break a bone for it to be considered “shattered”?
Six.
The first time I skied, I played it safe. I let a rope and a coat hanger move me up a long, evenly-graded bank, my skis in an awkward V, while three- and four- year olds tore through the powder on the steep slopes above. How did I end up with a shattered ankle on a green triangle hill called Frosty? If you have any idea, please call the Sugar Mountain Rescue Team; they’ll take my photo off their Unsoved Mysteries board, and I can show my face in the mountain region of North Carolina again.
And by the way, what the HELL was I doing in West Virginia?
This story is completely unbelievable.
Believe for a moment that I had a girlfriend. Believe for a moment that I am a sucker, ruled by Venus and totally susceptible to a pretty girl’s hopeful eyes, even when they’re asking me to ski after – well, you know. That whole “shattering” thing.
Believe that things had not gone well between myself and this girlfriend for quite some time, and believe that we argued from the ski rental counter, up the lift, and to the ridge of the mountain about her qualifications as a ski instructor.
“I mean, being born in Colorado doesn’t put skiing in your blood, you know,” I snipped at her between mental bars of Sonny and Cher.
“I don’t care how long you’ve been doing this – do you know how many times you have to break a bone for a doctor to call it shattered?”
It didn’t help that I had to hold on to her for dear life as we slid slowly toward the crest of the slope. If I let go, the mountain. If I held on, the mountain. And her. Babe! I got you babe!
I dug my skis into a plough and crossed my arms over my bulky, down-padded chest. It also didn’t help that I couldn’t bring my arms completely by my side; it is awfully difficult to scowl and shove your hands into your pockets when you looks slightly like a starfish, ready for the snow. But still, I held my arms as close to my chest as I could, and I said it. The sentence that left me buried in a snowdrift, one arm broken behind my back, half-naked and helpless.

© Scott Turner Schofield 2003

1

“You had better show me how to get my ass down this mountain myself, because I’ll be damned if I’m trusting my life and limbs to you and your ‘certified ski instructor’ story. I don’t love you nearly enough for that.”
She didn’t push me down the mountain out of anger, or have any one of her brothers, drunk and warm in the ski lodge, put me in the position that awaited me hours later. She simply flicked her eyes, newly sprung with tears, down the mountain and back to me.
“Here, to there. I don’t love you enough to help you figure it out,” she said calmly, and skied away.
They say our love won’t pay the rent, hmmm hmmm hm hmm hm, Our money’s all been spent…Babe! I got you babe! I got….you…babe….
I stumbled over, a crab on skis, to the side of the trail. I sat in the snow, waterproof at least, and hung my head in the cold. I had said plenty of tactless things in the months leading up to this moment, but none had left me on top of a rock with no way to get down quite so literally.
I pondered the plummet. I could ski and fall down, ski, and fall down, ski, and – until I made it to the lodge. Conversely, I could sit where I was until they closed the trail. Surely they would let me take the lift down at that point. I would have avoided the girlfriend and our imminent breakup for enough time, perhaps, for her to have forgotten the whole thing!
Somehow this last option seemed best, and by best I mean most butch: there would be no falling over in public, no acknowledgement of the lethal and crazy pastime of falling-as-sport, and avoidance of the breakup was complete. Sure, you have to be brave (thus, in my mind at the time, butch) to throw yourself down a steep rock on two planks of greased wood, only to face up to the lovelessness in a once serious relationship, but you’re still crazy. So, I sat. It was 1 p.m.
At 1:45, a ranger stopped to ask if I was alright. I nodded and bragged that I had had a rough run of the last pass, and was taking a break before I hot-dogged it down again. I sat back, overconfident in the snow, and watched him zip off as though thoughts of sudden, tree-wrought death had never once crossed his mind. I hated him, and his mountain.
At 2:15, I began to need to pee.
At 3:00 I weighed my options once more, however the mile or so I imagined, skiing and falling, skiing and falling, seemed too long and torturous to get me to the lodge in a dry snowsuit. Is it butch to piss your pants to prove a point?
“Fuck Sonny Bono,” I growled to myself. “That was no accident! It was a plot. He must have known something – he must have known too much. Of what, I have no idea. But just because one singer-gone-senator couldn’t make it down one hill doesn’t mean I can’t!”
I eyed the slope with contempt. “Bring it,” I hissed. “I’ll piss on you, and then I’ll take you.” I was a tomcat, ready to fall and land on my feet. I’d hit the hill, go to the hotel room, and break it off with the girl. Then I’d go home, where it is flat, and wait out winter alone, stable, and as butch as I could be. But first, I had to pee.
I glided further into the woods, and grabbed a tree to steady myself. I dropped the bulky polyester pants from their elastic suspenders, stuck my poles into the ground like a champ, and squatted.
When you squat on a hill wearing skis, your equilibrium tends to shift. Forward. The release of my bladder’s first hot blast was such, however, that I did not notice this movement until I was already going. When I felt the cold wind breezing under my buttocks –at that crucial moment – I hit a dip and careened out of the copse, leaving the woods far behind.
You can believe this. © Scott Turner Schofield 2003 2

I shot through a gang of snow boarders turning flips and 180s in their baggy, brightly colored gear. I passed children and parents and couples holding hands, and hot-doggers on the loose, slaloming, squatted, through the crowd.
I don’t remember what happened next. All I remember is the laughter. Doctors are not supposed to laugh at their patients. Orthopedists and Mountain Rescue teams are to hold the pain and suffering of injured skiers in the utmost seriousness: I could have broken my neck – think of Sonny Bono!
“Tell me how you ended up with no pants on again,” the girlfriend asked me on the way back from the hospital.
“I had them on,” I replied.
“Around your ankles,” she laughed.
I was glad for her Volvo. It had seat warmers. It calmed my cold seat, and cooled my head. I said nothing.
This girl and I were at the end of our run. As I had watched the powder fan out from the sides of her straight-set skis, as she disappeared beneath a steep ridge, and as I waited to see her slowing at the bottom of the slope, a red and purple SNO-TEK dot on the horizon far below, I felt no surprise, and little betrayal. In my broken-boned hindsight I understood that at some point, regardless of what you ever said to her, you just have to ski on by yourself, you have to figure your own way down the mountain into the valley below. It’s rocky on the way down, but you only notice because you had a lift on your way up: the bone-cracking crags and backbreaking moguls seemed perfect bosomy crests as you rode up, hand in hand with her, and the freezing, gritty snow sparkled in the sun. You have to get down any way you can. Once you have spent enough time alone in the valley, however, you will look lovingly at the mountains once again, marveling at their crisp peaks, your nostrils yearning for the sting of the electric air up there. Some day you’ll swallow your fear and ride up the lift again with some new skier, and once again you’ll come down, holding back to save your life, forgetting that to ski well, you must fall headlong into the slope, as leaning back only decreases your equilibrium and ability. You will fall, and ski on, fall, and ski on, and you will call it sport, and it will be your life, and if you’re smart, you will love every moment because it means you are living in love.
Of course, you don’t usually piss yourself and break your arm when you move on from a relationship, I don’t care how existential you are.
Oh, and that ski lift – it has its own dangers.
When we returned to the hotel, I didn’t break it off right away. I’d need help putting on my clothes for the rest of the weekend, and, you know…ski lodge, hot chocolate, injured lover. The accident had eclipsed our mountain top truth-telling, and there was break-up sex to be had. Instead, I made my way to the lodge fireplace, claiming I needed some “space” as the girl and her brothers snickered in my face.
I sat next to a guy with a broken leg. He opened swollen eyes and moaned, “I bet I got you beat.”
“Dude, no way. It’s really just impossible,” I replied, settling into a seat.
“No, seriously – you’re gonna buy me a drink when I tell you my story,” he persisted.
“Fine,” I relented, though I’d be damned if I was going to swap ski tales with him.

© Scott Turner Schofield 2003

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“See, I was goin’ up on the lift, and I look down, just before the dropoff you know, and this kid comes flyin’ out of some trees, and he’s got no pants on! I shit you not, dude –- NO PANTS!”
He laughed, then broke off in pain. He groaned again and told me, “I laughed so hard, I fell off the lift.”
Babe, I got you babe…

© Scott Turner Schofield 2003

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