The sort of thing you'd expect to happen in a gondola, in a movie

I tossed my skis in the rack on the side of the gondola and climbed in, the seventh one into an eight person car. I was in the singles line, I think the first six were from the regular group line. Fair enough- I waited in line for about 30 seconds, they probably waited 15 minutes. Their loss.

There was the usual semi-chaos that accompanies loading a gondola. It’s really not that hard, but still, you have to get 8 people plus skis into a car before it shoots up the mountain. It’s mostly calm, but there’s always a little hustle and bustle. Eventually we’re on the way up, I’m looking out the little part of the window that opens. I think to start the usual lift-ride chitchat, but I delay, and then it becomes too late to start the small talk. You can’t go halfway up the hill and then say “nice day today, eh?” (The idea of idle banter while going up the lift might sound lame. Really, it’s not. I mean, usually I basically grill people for info. Is it supposed to snow tomorrow? Where else is good to ski around here? What trails have the best snow? etc. It’s useful, and then you feel like you’ve made a friend for a few minutes. It’s the kind of thing that real badass skiers would probably do all the time. No, not the skiers who are doing 720’s in the half-pipe- they’re hoodlums, not badasses. I mean the maybe 35 year old skiers who are going off-piste into the backcountry, hunting far and wide for fresh powder, that kind of badass.)

Anyway, I’m saved from my chat-or-not dilemma by the other six starting up a little dialogue among themselves. Fine. I didn’t really feel like talking anyway. For probably the first time, I glance straight across the gondola, at passenger #8, and then we both quickly look away because we just accidentally made eye contact, and when that happens, you have to look away. But I couldn’t help but wonder, as I studied the mountain out the window again while really looking through my peripheral vision, who she was.

Here we have a description of a girl who particularly caught my eye. You can skip this paragraph if you want; it’s only a list of qualities. Most are undoubtedly unoriginal- if I had a pretzel crumb for every ignorant git who described a girl in a lot of trite words, I could make the pie crust that I made tonight. If I had a milliliter of pudding for each amateur who used “beautiful” a lot in such a description, I could make the pie filling and have enough left over to make up for Killington’s lack of snow by covering the mountain in pudding. Anyway, since you’ve tossed me an “attaboy” by continuing to read, I’ll try to hold up my end of the bargain by avoiding pie ingredients altogether. Light blue. That’s the first color that jumps into my mind- I guess that’s obvious, because she was wearing a light blue coat. Her hat was blue too- that’s fair. Her ski clothes happen to match, that’s cool. Hell, all mine do. I’m like Gothy McGotherson on that mountain, black like Slipknot. But this isn’t about me. And of course her hair was blonde and straight. Consciously, I say I like brown hair. I always fall for blondes though. Am I deluding myself? Hard to say, not a large enough sample size. But really, enough about me! Anyway. She was good-looking, sure, but not remarkably good looking, and that was probably the most remarkable thing about her. Given an attractive snowboarder (did I mention she was carrying a snowboard?), I’d expect her to be aggressively attractive. Just on average- the stereotypical female snowboarder, in my mind, is a polished sort of beautiful, and will kick your ass in the terrain park. Passenger #8 wasn’t and wouldn’t. She was too attractive to be younger than me and too innocent to be older.

And who was she, anyway? Why was she riding the gondola silently and alone? It’s possible she was just in the singles line to speed up the wait, but as I found out when we got to the top, she was boarding on her own. Was she just here with her friends and taking some time by herself, like me? Was she here with family, even? Was she a local, up for the day? Couldn’t be- she didn’t look comfortable enough with being here.

At this point, the six started talking about poker. Someone suggested calling someone else to play poker after skiing. Someone else mentioned that he had brought chips. And then the poker stories came out. (let me say that, in general, your poker story is not interesting.) “Man, I lost half my chips the other night, I had two pair and he made a full house!” “That sucks. One time I had nothing on the flop, and I made a set on the river, and beat the guy with two pair.” “And then, the next hand, I had jack-2, and I folded, and the flop was jack, jack, 2.” (and let me say that, in particular, THIS poker story is not interesting. You folded your shitty hand, you made the correct play, don’t whine about it. I’m going to reiterate: this is NOT an interesting story.) Anyway, about the six: most of them snowboarded, they were all quintessential thugs. Their stories got more Neanderthal until I felt like they had their own little car, and passenger #8 and I were floating out in space alongside.

And yet, passenger #8 and I were in separate cars too. From time to time, I’d stop looking out the window, to catch another glimpse of her- I wanted to remember what she looked like. But of course, I only saw her in the big panoramic swoops that my eyes took, making eye contact with three of the six as much as her, as if every other spot in my field of vision would get jealous if my eyes were spending any extra time in her direction. I don’t think we even made eye contact again for about six minutes. That’s three fourths of an eight minute gondola ride.

But when the stories turned to boasts of drunkenness that were made to seem like they weren’t boasts, but they clearly were, our eyes finally met for the first time since that first second in which we tried not to acknowledge each other’s existence. They stayed locked for probably four seconds. How many facial expressions can be conveyed, how much information can you possibly say, in four seconds of subtle eye movements? Evidently it’s more than either of us knew. For me, it was a glance to the side, a furrowed brow that indicated disgust at the six and the culture that they represent, a half second of straight faced eye contact, a mischievous half grin and a glance out the window, a quick eyebrow raise, and a full second of smiling eye contact, broken off quickly as if one of the six would notice or care. I couldn’t replicate the expressions her eyes made if I tried, but I know it ended with the same grin.

The moment passed, and the gondola arrived at the top of the mountain. As I had the quicker route outside, I stepped out, deftly grabbed my skis, lumbered over to the mountain and put them on. I got the hell out of there as fast as I could, because I knew she could walk down the stairs and put her snowboard on faster than I could get my skis on. I took the most obscure trail down- I couldn’t even tell you the name, because nobody skis on it. But it was a long groomer, and I was flying down it. And, of course, because my life is a movie, I turned my head, and she was right behind me. We completed our fifth second of eye contact ever. At that point, I was skiing faster than I had ever skied, on any hill, ever. I pulled up a bit, let her get ahead of me, and quickly dialed my friends to say I was skiing through lunch. That’s believable; I’m a nut. If the mountain stayed open all day and all night and I told them I was skiing 72 hours straight, they’d believe me. I completed the phone call and put my phone back in my pocket, pulled into a tuck, which turned into a sit-down, and I pulled up even with her, and then passed her again.

You take it from there.

At a certain point, the above story changes from fact into fiction. You get three guesses as to when, and the first two don’t count.


Brian -

tasse, i know you’re a romantic. because i am a romantic, and we tend to get along pretty well. but take a chance, man. i’m not going to give out advice on things i know nothing about, but here’s some tips on women and creative writing: take a chance and a creative writing course. aside from the campy ending, i really liked the story.

blog 2024 2023 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010