It’s been quite the week, I’ll tell you. I started a new job, got to watch Del Potro play not one, but two fantastic tennis matches, and, most importantly for me at least, my story, Dear Friend, won a short story competition and has been published on Reedsy’s blog. It’s a special story to me, because I tapped into a past self of mine. It’s scary to do that sometimes, but it also taught me that I am not that self anymore. That somewhere along the way I reached some sort of sense of acceptance. So I share this with you, my friends, asking only that you read it for what it is, a story, and that you share in my giddy happiness that someone, somewhere thought it was worth people reading. Much love.
Tomorrow it will be ten years. Ten years since my life changed. It was a cold day; I remember that much. The sun was shining and glinting in the snow, but the air held a sharp nip to it that never let you get quite comfortable, no matter how many layers you were wearing. The snow looked perfect. Smooth but firm. It was a few days old, but the tireless workers at the resort had worked all night to level the tracks out for another day of skiing. Do you remember that?
We had breakfast together, you and I. It’s funny: there are so many details that I remember from that day, details that refuse to leave my mind, but it’s impossible for me to tell you what I had for breakfast that day. Perhaps it was some toast. Maybe cereal. Do you remember? In any case, it was the last meal I would have before the accident.
You and I were in the same class. Not quite beginners, but nowhere near advanced. We were meant to meet with our instructor soon after eating, clad in the skis and poles we had rented for the week. My skis were bright yellow and yours pink. I still remember how the light of the sun bounced off the fluorescent hues as we went up and up and up on the ski lift.
We were trying a new slope that day, weren’t we? One that looked tougher than all the others we had been on so far. You reassured me, telling me that I’d be fine. This was only another hill for us to go down.
I should have listened to you. If I had let your words reassure me, then maybe that added ounce of confidence would have steadied me just the right amount as I sailed down towards the base.
In just a few seconds — it can’t have been much longer than that — I was on my back. I’m not quite sure how it happened, only that despite my mind and the instructor screaming at me to slow down, to break, I just couldn’t make it happen. I lost control and fell. I stared up at the bright blue sky from the cold ground, confused, wondering why I couldn’t move my legs. At first it was just a realization, a fact. But soon after, as that fact sunk in, this awful sense of panic began to grow from within my chest, making me want to scream.
A woman came and bent over me, staring straight into my face. Someone I didn’t know. As the voices I recognized began to get nearer, she asked me questions that were simple, but I kept getting them wrong. I couldn’t remember which cabin I was staying in. It was the name of a Greek or a Roman god. Apollo? Athena? Something with an “A.” I gave the name for yours instead of mine, I think. It’s the angriest I’ve ever been about getting an answer wrong. Why do you think that is?
From there, I was pulled down the mountain on a stretcher of sorts. It was bright yellow as well. A lone skier was tethered to me and guided me down. I remember rushing past other people on the hill and I can still feel the bumps of used snow and ice against my back. In any other circumstance it might have been fun.
In the small health center, they cut my clothes off, piece by piece, trying to expose what was wrong with me. What hurt? Where? Could I feel this? Could I feel that? The answer was no. That feeling of panic that hadn’t quite left me came back with a force.
They had to transport me elsewhere, and I stayed in a small hospital in the mountains for a night before they air-lifted me to the city, only to have it confirmed that I would not move my legs again.
That was the day it happened. It only took a moment or two, and that moment was ten years ago tomorrow.
Tomorrow scares me, friend. The notion of making it to ten years is frightening. Terrifying. Think about it. In ten years, how many opportunities have I missed by not being able to use my legs? How many moments with you, with family, with other friends have I lost? How many things have I not been able to see? I fear that if I begin counting, if I let myself imagine all I have been barred from, I will lose all the good I have seen in these ten years, too. Because there has been good. Lots of it.
Somewhere within myself, I found the strength to take on a different life from that one I had been planning. And thanks to you, friend, always there to remind me that life is simply what you make of it, it has been a good life so far.
Ten years is such a long time, though, isn’t it? It’s a marker of time I held at a distance, always secretly hoping that there would somehow be a magical cure that would change everything before that haunted anniversary came to pass. Did you have such hopes for me? Did you, friend? I know you’ve always wished the best for me.
This fear feels irrational now that I’ve put it down on paper. After all, tomorrow is just another day. I find myself wondering if it will even feel any different. What about in fifteen? Or in twenty?
Why is it that we let these anniversaries toy with our minds so? They are arbitrary moments in time that serve only to mark the passing of time, but we let events taint dates with meaning, making them important only in our own memories. I know I can’t explain it. All I know is that I dread tomorrow. I dread it terribly. I’m only thankful that I have you, friend, to bear it with me.
Thank you for that.