An unavoidably bad day and catching a ride with the world's most boring human.
I unwind my mind. Trim flaps of superfluous scraps like fat from muscle, bleed the crevasses dry and pan the glimmering nougat dry creek river bed underneath. Use a sieve and a hounds-tooth comb. Press the crumbs into some discernible shape and leave them to dry, to age, to ferment under a harsh light.
When the cracks show up, I squeeze them tight again.
Time travel and it’s thirteen years ago, early Spring 2010:
I am 24, living in Mammoth Lakes, CA.
It’s one of those days where two plus two equals three.
I cycle to work, into the wind. As a side-note, it doesn’t matter where you’re going; it’s always into the wind in the mountains. Mountain folks like it rough: tents, no WiFi and cycling into the wind.
So I cycle into the wind.
It’s a Saturday, which is my Monday, and I’m on Minis. This mean nothing to you, but to me it means nine crying 4 year-olds.
Come on Jill, I hear you say, they can’t all be crying. Well, you’re right of course, only 8 of them are crying (it all began with one, crying is contagious with four year olds). The ninth is whizzing happily down the little kids carpet, wedging, turning around cones, all but cartwheeling down the slope.
This is the child of the parent who will complain to my supervisor at the end that their child was held back, hasn’t progressed, could outski my ass any day of the week. And so on.
It’s a dad, obviously. Doesn’t trust a girl instructor, much less a girl instructor half his age. Sigh.
As a result, I spend my lunch break talking this guy back around and myself in from the ledge. Finlay, the Scottish expat who runs Mammoth ski school with a kind but iron fist, feels sorry for me and lets me off for the afternoon. I would usually be celebrating with a ski, but today it just feels purgatorial.
I decide bouldering will make me feel better and call everyone in my address book with a car and a crash pad and a willingness to drive 40 miles to Bishop.
The only one who bites is Christian. Chris.
Dreaded (in both the traditional sense and the matted human hair sense) pseudo-hippie from Orange County who speaks even slower than he drives, but can’t do both at the same time.
If I ask a question, or point out a minor feature of the landscape (a gas station, say), the speedometer immediately drops 10 miles as he, distracted and unable to navigate simultaneously the speech-thought-action interface, launches into a completely pointless and boring story about the time his belt loop broke while he was climbing or the time he was going to hike something but then didn’t or how marijuana is actually a medical necessity and he has a note from his doctor to prove it.
It’s unnerving just how dull he is and how much his dullness is intensified by his glacial driving. It makes the passenger nervous, in an interminable, claustrophobic, child-lock panic kind-of-way.
I really wanted to climb though so I got in the car and shut my mouth. But by the time we got there, I had already lost any interest in climbing, fascinated instead by Chris’ complete inability to ascend anything and his vitriolic self-mortification, expressed as third-person chastisement (“Idiot! Come on, Chris! Jeez.”), every time he slipped out of a completely improbable position that was never going to work. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me/ my fingers/ my shoes...”
Then on the drive home, he asks if it’s ok if he stops at his house so he can shower before he drops me off. Of course it isn’t but of course I say it is.
So I sit in his car (I refuse to go in lest they find my bored corpse in a year) for 40 minutes while he showers. I get home after dark and spring from his car (finally!) like I’m surfacing for oxygen, breaking for the border. An arms-splayed Tim Robbins coming up out of the shit pipe into the stream.
I check the time and it’s an hour after I was supposed to meet my friend David (ski patroller, good guy) at a concert up in The Mammoth Lakes Village, the purpose built corporate resort, which is neither a lake nor a village.
And this is the funny thing. As I’m getting changed, I know it’s a bad idea. Every fibre of my being, radiating outwards from my gut, knows it’s pointless, that I’m too tired to have any fun in this day and that I’ll never find him in the heaving shouting vomiting crowds in the Village.
I go anyway. This being the mountains, I wait 25 minutes for the bus, and when I get there, this being the mountains, there’s no reception so I can’t hear him on my cellphone as he tries to explain where he is. His text says he’s on the “skier’s left of the stage” which is obviously no help.
I pay 35 bucks for a mountain sushi dinner of unsurpassed mediocrity, fail to locate David in the throng and get back on the bus with a large proportion of it.
As I sit, a young tourist couple stagger over and perch swaying above me. The guy is talking some shit to her about a 25 minute massage and a hot tub and pawing her ass which is 3 inches from my face. Every time the bus rounds a bend in the road, and let’s face it, this being the mountains, there are a fuck of a lot of bends in the road, his foot lands on my shin or her ass lands in my lap.
“I am going to break your kneecaps if you don’t get off of me.”
And when I get off the bus, there’s a bear lurking by the dumpster outside my house. The bear eats me, shits me out into the forest, and we both live happily ever after.