Living On A Whim: Part Two

19 Jan

Whim

I rolled over in a groggy haze. There was a figure in the corner, dressed only to the waist. I pulled the comforter up over my shoulders, and buried my head in the pillow. The figure spoke.

“Hey Jennifer.”

I turned and blinked through my morning cloud at Linus, the figure in the corner. He was wearing long johns and long ski socks over them. His short, stick-straight hair stood in many directions. He looked like a cartoon character.

Last night, after we got drunk at the bar after skiing (did you know that drinking at higher altitudes gets you drunk faster?), Katie, Jessica, Linus and I wandered around Vail Village. We dined at an overpriced restaurant that served warm German sausages and heavy potatoes. We wandered in and out of shops, some of them fancy with fur coats and sleek sweaters, others casual with colorful marijuana paraphernalia.

We shoe-skated across a tiny ice rink in the middle of the village, threw snowballs at each other, and lost our breath running to the warmth of the condo. The four of us soaked in the hot tub, telling winding stories as we gazed at the stars through the rising steam of the water.

Linus and I stayed up and talked long after Katie and Jessica went to bed.

We talked about Boston, and I told him everything that happened. He listened like he cared. He told me about his work as a civil engineer, and how he wished he could move to Denver. He was thoughtful, and funny, and had an unexpected charm.

I’d never had such a romantic night – with boyfriends, friends, or total strangers. I felt totally in love with the world.

When the time came to go to bed, we realized that Jessica and Katie had taken the single beds. All that was left was the king bed in the other room. I felt confident from the day’s earlier successes in spontaneity, so, without any consideration of consequences, I invited him to share the bed with me, if only to sleep.

And then there I was the next morning, watching Linus get dressed in the corner.

“How are you doing?” he asked. “You going with us today?”

“I just learned to ski. I don’t think you want me going with you.”

“I’ll ski with you.” Linus looked at me with wide eyes, pulled on a turtleneck, then smiled as his head popped out. “It would be my pleasure.”

Linus wasn’t what most people would think is cute. He was a little chubby, with a thick neck, and he dressed like a dork. But when you looked closely, and long enough, you could find little charms here and there. There was a sparkle in his eyes, and the corners of his mouth turned up in a boyish grin.

***

“So what do you want to ski today?” Linus asked after Katie and Jessica mischievously left us behind, smiling over their shoulders as they disappeared into another lift line. “Want to try a blue run?” (He was talking about an intermediate run, which is much steeper and more intimidating than the beginner runs I skied yesterday.)

“I can’t do that. I just learned to ski yesterday.”

“You seem like the kind of woman who doesn’t say she can’t do something. Let’s try it. Trust me – I’ll teach you exactly what you need to do.”

“All right.” I hesitated. “But first I let me warm up on the beginner trail.”

“You got it.” Linus smiled.

He waited patiently as I tightened my boots and held out an arm while I clicked my boots into my skis.

After we warmed up on a beginner slope, we got on a lift that would take us far up the mountain. Yesterday’s familiar terror returned.

The higher the chair took us, the more gigantic the mountains appeared; as they grew, so did the fear in my chest. I was sick to my stomach at the thought of skiing down from the top of wherever this chair was taking us. Why did I agree to this?

 

Linus must have read my mind. “You will be great.” He gave my arm an encouraging pat. “It’s like this,” he said, using his hands to explain the physics of my body against the mountain, my body against gravity.

“As long as you move with the mountain, and don’t fight so hard against it, you’ll be fine. And if you feel yourself going too fast, just point your skis uphill.”

When we get off the lift, he demonstrated with his knees and shoulders how it should look. Then he pointed down the run.

“Ready?”

Something in his voice inspired confidence, offsetting my self-doubt and fear. I wanted to show him that I could do it. I pushed off. Gravity took me; the snow was hard in the morning cold. I concentrated on what Linus just told me, and soon I was skiing, in control, down the slope.

Every time the run crested, I breathed it in: the cold in my lungs, my pumping blood and burning thighs, Colorado spreading out around me, luminous and blanketed in snow, the secrets of the mountains innocent in the morning sun. I knew it would be a good day.

After watching me go halfway down the slope, Linus sped past, carving long, elegant c-shapes down the slope. Snow seemed to smoke behind him, like the Wicked Witch of the West. It was impressive.

Over the course of the day, I gained confidence on the intermediate slopes, as my turns smoothed out, and I went a little faster every time. All the while Linus was there, ready to help. Being with him erased all my fears. I didn’t stop myself from falling for that feeling. It was intoxicating, and I couldn’t get enough of it.

By the time we met up with Katie and Jessica, I was smitten for a man who made me feel like a million bucks.

That night, the four of us drank thick beer in front of the fireplace, and we stayed up playing games and laughing until midnight.

Then, I found myself back in bed with Linus, only this time he was very close, our faces just inches apart.

“I’ve never met anyone like you,” he said. “Thank you for spending the day with me.”

“I had the best time,” I whispered into his ear.

He pulled me close and kissed me like no one had ever kissed me before.

***

The next morning, I woke up to Linus’s face close to mine. He blinked awake at almost the same time.

“Good morning.”

I buried my head in his shoulder and smiled up at him sheepishly. “Hi.”

Then a panic arose in my chest as I remembered that I had put off two days of work. I had to get back to Denver as soon as possible.

“Oh no,” I sighed with a whine. “I have to go.”

Linus frowned, “Why?”

“Work.”

He thought for a moment. “We’re flying out of Denver tomorrow afternoon. Can I treat you to breakfast?”

I smiled. “What a great idea.” I rolled over, just out of his reach, and bounded out of bed.

After I got ready and packed my suitcase, I leaned over the bed.

Linus brushed the hair off my face. “You sure are beautiful.”

I kissed him.

He closed his eyes, “Thank you for that.”

I shut the door behind me.

On the way back to Denver, I barely noticed the mountain roads, I was so caught up in thinking about what had just happened. Like a movie, I replayed the last two days in my mind, scene after scene, making up a little more of the story each time.

I daydreamed about getting off a plane in Boston and kissing at the airport, two long-lost lovers reunited. Maybe Mr. Poison would be there, coincidentally, and see how happy I was, and he’d feel jealous. I let myself imagine Linus moving to Denver for me, and us skiing together in the winter, exploring the city in the spring. On Saturday nights, we’d laugh with new friends in our shared city apartment, and Sunday mornings we’d wake up happy together, just as we had that morning.

In the back of my mind, I knew that indulging in these daydreams was dangerous, but the infatuation made me feel reckless.

Linus was so different from Mr. Poison. He admired me, cared about my comfort, listened to me, and charmed me in a way that Mr. Poison would never have been able to do.

The next day, I rose early, and texted Linus to find out the details of our breakfast meet-up. While waiting for his response, I spent way too much time picking an outfit, curling my hair, and perfecting my makeup.

By the time it was reaching normal breakfast hours, I hadn’t heard from him, so I texted Katie. After an hour, she texted back: Sorry, we got our flight time wrong. We’re heading straight to the airport. Was great to see you!

Shortly thereafter, I got a text from Linus: Sorry I didn’t get back to you. I really like you, but I just can’t do this. Maybe we’ll meet again someday. When I sent a text back, he didn’t reply.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll have more insights. Maybe tomorrow I’ll scold myself for getting entangled in a silly romance and return to the wise ways of Jenny G.

But today, I feel a weight of disappointment so heavy I can’t get out of bed. Today, the loneliness is unbearable.

Spontaneity got me on skis for the first time in my life, it introduced me to new people, reminded me what it felt like to have good friends, and led me to the first place I ever saw through rose-colored glasses. But spontaneity also turned me into a fool.

-Jennifer

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