The Foreigner and I never skied again together, so my used-once ski gear sat unused – first in our garage in Portland, then in a storage locker after our divorce. Still, I kept it, and nursed hopes of using it again someday. A year or so after the divorce, The Departed came along. He asked me out a couple of times, and I went, but something was off, disconnected, and so after a couple of evenings of stilted conversation, I decided it wasn’t worth the cost of a babysitter and simply ignored his phone calls and emails.
Eventually they stopped, but then he resurfaced with a lengthy email, that was sent to me and a number of names I did not know. He had broken his arm skiing, and as a result could not drive, and wanted to share some of the insights that he’d had during his enforced solitude. What followed was a rambling stream of consciousness that was worded to sound philosophical and profound, but was so incoherent I assumed it must be the pain medication talking. I didn’t read past the first few sentences, and continued my policy of not replying.
He disappeared again, then resurfaced – again – with a healed arm and renewed attentions. This time, he seemed changed to the point where I agreed to go out with him again and even commented on the change. The enforced isolation after his ski accident had resulted in some profound insights, he said, and the realization he needed to change some things. I saw this as positive – a sign of self-awareness and maturity – and eventually the conversation turned to other things, as we got to know each other.
The Departed loved to ski, so much so that his family’s annual gag gift was ski-themed holiday decor – the tackier, the better. After we married, the holidays revolved around decorating the tree with ornaments, and the house with his amassed collection of skiing Santa Clauses and teddy bears.
Once the holidays ended, what followed was a season of short, dark days and endless rain, and each year, I would raise the question of why he didn’t ski. At first, he didn’t have skis – he had broken one in his accident, and could not afford to replace it. After a year or two, there was enough money for skis, but he didn’t have anyone to ski with. He no longer trusted his old skiing friends, who had been unsympathetic after his injury, refusing to leave the mountain right away, forcing him to wait and suffer until they were ready to leave. Skiing with me was out: I wasn’t a good enough skier to do the kind of skiing he wanted to do.
I suggested that he join a club, but he’d already researched them: they were too expensive. Eventually, money was not a problem, and I was informed that he couldn’t go because I wouldn’t let him – I never let him do things he wanted to do, unless they included me.
I pointed to my once-used ski gear that I’d been waiting to use, for eight years at this point, and he had no answer. I needed to learn, but was ready – eager, even – to try. Other families at The Child’s school went skiing often, and talked about it much of the winter. I wanted to join the crowd; I wanted The Child to always be part of the crowd.
It would take a while for him to find new skis, he protested; he was a serious skier, and expensive purchases take time to get right, and though I didn’t know much about skiing and gear, I knew who to ask, and told him where he could rent any kind of skis he wanted for a day, just to try out.
He said we were both too out of shape to ski, and I replied, it will be a great way to get back in shape.
He insisted, You don’t ski to get in shape, you get in shape to ski.
I’d like to find out for sure, I said, and told him where The Child’s friends skied on the weekends with their families. But The Departed preferred to go to another ski area – the one he always went to – so that’s where we went.