Chairlift Stories

June 3, 2010
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It was snowing profusely.
The sun had been up all morning, casting a shimmer over the world, making me as happy as a girl can be in the beauty of mountains and snow. But things change. A snow blast made the sky gray and falling. Wind was throwing snowflakes in my face. And the worst part: the chairlift got stuck without warning, strangling me in the middle of nowhere, thirty feet above the ground, my ski poles dangling in mid-air. Darn.
Well… I looked around. And I was not alone. Next to me sat an old man, calmly rocking his right ski in the wind. Farther down a blue-clad teen snowboarder was playing with his phone. I searched the boy’s face for signs of the same frustration I felt. But I saw none. Headphones and a cell phone in hand, he was oblivious to the world: I even wondered if he had noticed the stop at all. I looked back at the old man. Something suddenly struck me as wrong: the man was not upset at all. He was actually enjoying the weather! And here I realized that his smiling eyes were watching me curiously.
“Ain’t enjoying the stop much?” He asked. I sighed, “It’s all right.” As skiers often do, we began talking and my mood started showing signs of improvement. He was peacefully muttering under his breath while I examined him more closely. Suddenly, to my sheer amazement, I noticed that he did not have a leg. In fact, his left ski was attached to a steel bar! He noticed my worried look and slightly changed the tone of his muttering.
“I wasn’t always like that,” he recalled, gesturing to his leg. “I made the All-American Ski Team at the age of fourteen. When that happened, I was the greatest! Thought I was the champ. As if that’s what matters.” He smiled vaguely. “I was happy. I played some school sports, was the football team captain. That was a good life.” He kept talking and after a while came to that unfortunate football game, when life had broken and frozen around him. A massive boy from his own team had stomped on his leg as he was running past, crushing bones and destroying dreams. “Don’t remember much. Sounds – crunch – shouting – a bright light.” He shrugged, struggling to lift the dust off the faraway memories. “It was disheartening; I remember being angry. Humans are curious creatures though: they adjust to the strangest circumstances. I began to heal quickly – quickly enough to be able to ski in the next season’s competitions. The doctors had no say in my decisions – I was arrogant. That’s where I turned the corner.” He gestured to his steel leg. “I strained my leg and spun out of control during warm-ups, my almost-healed leg hitting shrubs as I tumbled down the slope.” He traced the trajectory of his fall in the air. “…I finally hit a jagged rock. Right before I lost consciousness, I noticed blue sky, and some child’s terrified expression as she gaped at me. I wondered why the child was so scared.” He stopped and smiled apologetically as my face crumbled into a grimace. But I waited to know the rest. “Amputation… several dim years…” He continued, “…then I met a young woman, a beautiful young woman who brought back the spark of life. We got married, and soon after I had this construction molded.” He beamed and pointed to his leg. “Belts, many little hooks – that’s how I started skiing in my second life. Had to learn all over, but been skiing ever since!” He chuckled.
I looked around at the falling snow, and the weather didn’t seem half as bad all of a sudden.
On the other side of our chair-seat, the blue snowboarder suddenly laughed, “That’s sick, man!” He exclaimed. I looked at him, but he was only staring at his cell phone, his headphones tightly on, oblivious to the world.

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