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Purgatory - Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019
Wednesday, Mar. 16, 2016 @ 5:38 pm
I leave work early. The weather is mixed, pieces of blue sky here and there, and then raining as I drive through the park and across the bridge. Windshield wipers flapping back and forth, clouds thick and heavy on the mountains. So Vancouver.
I arrive at his place, still in nylons and dress skirt. Glasses and my favourite mustard cardigan. He is, of course, all ready to go.
He walks me through the basement entrance maze and lets me loose to go by myself up to their main bathroom. I know the way - I was here for his birthday party before Christmas. Just as I'm walking away, past shelving full of skiing gear, rain jackets, and bicycle parts, I had him the gift I'd prepared for him - a freshly cut bar of soap from my last batch. It is creamy beige swirled with dark cocoa, the top dusted with oatmeal and infused with cedarwood, orange, and lavender. It smells like freshly chopped wood, a forest in cold winter. It smells like his basement, his house, decorated European-style in abundant pine trim.
I change in his bathroom. Balling up my pantyhose, hands shaking as I put in my contacts. I'm frantically scanning the counter for evidence of other women.
He drives us up the mountain.
We begin skiing in daylight. A gentle snow falls, and the runs are lush and velvety with three inches of fresh snow.
We reach the highest point within the ski boundary. It's one of my favourite runs - the reward is a long, sweeping, rolling descent at breakneck speeds. I feel reckless abandon, the snow stinging my face and my arms wide like wings. Chris falls behind me, and he's a pile of limbs and laughter.
We do the run again. I tell him about the ravens that normally hang out at the top, begging snacks from the snowshoers who also break at this spot. As if on command, as if I summoned them from the sky, willed them to appear, one lands on the tree in front of us, snow falling in a heavy cascade as the large bird adjusts his stance. He croaks and knocks at us. Chris looks at me.
We head down to the lower reaches of the hill. We explore down some ungroomed trails, and then venture off the marked routes completely to search for an old cabin. We are trekking through the woods. It is hard work. The snow is deep. Tree wells abundant. Intermittent creeks. We link up with the Baden Powell trail and find old ski hill evidence - broken down structure from a ski jump, rotten trail signage, raggedy access roads. We reach a point where we are beginning to become lost. We search out in circles from the last fluorescent trail marker. The sun is dipping. We're standing there deep in the forest, our skis supporting us on the snow, breathless and damp with exertion. The fog is rolling in. But I feel safe with him.
He announces that it's time to eat. I have a big question mark in my head about this - normally I ski for 3 hrs and then call it a day. We head back to the parking lot, lean our skis against the wooden racks. He goes to his car. I go to the bathroom. We meet up in the old warming hut. I pull a sad granola bar from my chest pocket and set it on the table in front of me. He starts pulling containers from his backpack and opening them. One with two kinds of cheese: brie and boursin. A container full of hulled and halved strawberries, mixed with fresh blackberries. A box of crackers. And a thermos of hot tea.
Dig in!, he says.
My heart is bursting from his thoughtfulness. I think of him cleaning the strawberries and thinking of me. Of him boiling a kettle, choosing a tea bag, considering the surprise on my face when he pulls it out of his bag with a flourish. I guess I felt the same when I pared the bar of soap, when I wrapped it in parchment, when I carried it in my bag all day, waiting to give it to him.
We drink his tea and share his meal. We have the hut to ourselves - nobody thinks of skiing once the cherries blossom. We sit across from each other, flushed and dewy from skiing. Shared adventure. Trust. I stare at him, study his face, his arms, his hair. Ask him a million questions.
I want to know everything.
We go out again after eating. It is now dark, and snow is falling in earnest. Big, fluffy flakes. The flood lights illuminate the trails.
Our conversations deepen. I learn of his biggest regret. I learn of his insecurities. I learn of so many things, and I just want to keep learning more. He says that he wants a family some day. He refers to his last girlfriend in Calgary. I can't respond. I am frozen. I want to be her, that girl, that girl that is special to him.
We are at the top of the powerlines. The clouds part slightly, and a quarter moon is exposed. The city pulses with an orange glow. We stand there, listening to the quiet. It's one of the most beautiful moments of my life; I feel utterly content.
We head down the powerlines. The snow is a mess from the heavy grooming equipment. It's too steep, and I fall twice. Chris is falling too. I look at him. He looks at me. I'm gonna toboggan this one, I say, and begin to arrange myself sitting on the back of my skis. I shoot off like a dart, and I'm bouncing all over the place, and the snow is falling in the darkness around us, and I laugh so hard that I fall off of my skis and lay on my side on the ground. Chris is going down the hill the same way, and I can hardly think I'm laughing so hard. We reach the groomed lower reaches, and I'm still on the ground holding my stomach, my face burning with the weather and mirth. This. This, I want to feel. Forever.
We finally declare that we'll do one more big loop of the lower runs.
At the car, we realize that it's nearly 10pm. We've been here since 4pm. Six hours. He says he can't believe how fast the time went by. He says this over and over again.
Driving down the mountain, the windows fogged from our breath and sweat. The city quiet and dark. I'm never out this late anymore. He drives, and there are a few moments of silence.
He pulls into his garage. We get out. He pulls my things from the trunk, handing them to me until I'm full. Skis. Poles (with new kink from off-trail adventures). Bag of clothing. My hands are full, and I'm saying goodbye, and it's all happening so fast. I don't want to say goodbye.
He initiates a hug.
He hugs quickly, and I hug a bit longer.
I've kind of leaned into him, all of my gear and my tired wrecked core. Off kilter.
I recover myself and say goodnight. Head down the driveway.
I go home, shower, and fall into bed. I get up and go downstairs, give D a hug goodnight. He stares at his computer screen and grunts a lifeless response. My heart falls.
I have strange dreams. I'm not sure how much I even sleep, my legs on fire from the 6 hr odyssey. My mind races with all of the things that we talked about. From philosophy, to local history, to things he did in university. He mentioned my weight. He told me that I will always be myself, no matter whether I am a biologist as when we met or an engineer as I am now. I will always be Shannon.
I stare at my email all morning. He will email me. I know it. I know it.
11am. It arrives. I do not open it.
11:30am. I head to couples therapy. The session is productive, but I see for the first time that it's D that's holding us back, not me. I can see his struggle to listen to me, to hear me out, to not defend himself. Carly asks me how committed I am to fixing things. I hesitate. I stare out the window of the building towards the mountains. Chris. Strawberries in my mouth. Laughing so hard that my abs still ache today. Shoving my face into the towel hanging on the back of his bathroom door.
I am committed.