Best of Freshman Writing
All materials on the Best of Freshman Writing site are copyright protected. Permission to reproduce the information on these pages, in any fashion, must be obtained from the authors.
This page created and
maintained by Jim Manis
Last updateded July 2, 2012.
PSU – York
I was in a slump, for lack of a better descriptive word. An unexciting low point in life where the world feels smaller than usual, darker than it should be, and colder than any memory I might have of wintertime. With this dim hazy fog constantly clouding my vision and filling my lungs, it makes it hard to enjoy the days as they uneventfully pass by. My favorite things suddenly become boring. Sounds become duller, colors, less vivid. Everything tastes as if all the food in the world has abruptly lost its flavor.
As the summer ended and faded into memory, my world suddenly lost its flavor. It came without warning and hit like an earthquake, brutally shaking everything around me to pieces without any immediately apparent reason. My life hung in crumbled pieces as the cold came and settled in for the winter. lt wasn’t until Christmastime that I discovered a surface that it had left untouched. Turning a deaf ear to my mother’s concerns, I treasured what was left intact.
Board slung over my shoulders and resting on my dark blue jacketed arms, I hiked to the base of the lift. A black knit hat pulled down to my eyes attempted to hold my unruly dark blonde curls in one spot. I approached a hunched over figure in a baggy black and gray striped hooded sweater who was currently preoccupied in tightening a metallic green binding to an otherwise charcoal black snowboard. I slowed my pace to make my approach less noticeable, lightly setting my board on the snow before racing and jumping on the back of the unsuspecting figure. Laughing as I was whipped around and slammed back down into the snow, Jordan greeted me with a “nice to see you too,” before turning to finish up his handiwork, I busied myself strapping my left foot into my board, and tightening my gloves. By the time I stood up to straighten out my jacket, Jordan was already on his way to the lift, waving behind him as he skated off. “Come on!” he called as I jumped up and followed.
The chair swung around fast. We were always amused while watching first-timers caught unprepared, the seat swiftly catching them in the back of the knees. They were seated before they knew what hit them. As the lift continued forward, my board slowly lifted off the ground dangling from only one foot and held fast by a dark purple binding. My ankle tensed as the familiar strain attempted to drag it back towards earth. With a practiced ease I swung the board up, resting it on top of my unhooked foot, relieving my ankle for the remainder of the ride.
Jordan sat slightly angled towards me, his black pants ragged at the bottom from constant wear. A more visible tear crept down his left leg, although what the story behind that was I couldn’t say. A “pop” drew my attention up to his face, where his hands were cupped around a silver shiny lighter. It caught and reflected a slight glare from the lights, as a firecracker flame danced to life. His tan skin looked cracked, cold without his gloves which he had hastily tucked between his legs. His head bent as he lit up; I prayed for the smell of cigarette smoke.
His thick black hair covered his eyes, and whatever of his face you could see was covered by a combination of smoke and clouded breath. “You shouldn’t be around me,” he began and then paused, waiting for a response. When none came he added, “And really, you shouldn’t be up here.” The cold bit my cheeks as I tugged my blue bandanna off my face, its warmth briefly touching my neck before being stolen from me by the harsh January winds. And although there weren’t any mirrors outside, without a doubt my nose would’ve given Rudolph a run for his money.
“We’re friends,” I started, turning towards him. “There’s nothing wrong with me being around you, or up here for that matter.”
The lift bumped and then slowed, coming to a stop. The chair swayed as the winds picked up loose snow and threw it in our faces. The fresh clean smell of the frosty breeze overloaded my senses as Jordan reached his re-gloved hand out and caught my arm, steadying himself as the chair’s swinging came to a halt. The snow glowed a pale orange under the lights, casting eerie shadows off the bundled figures shooting by. Everyone on the mountain was doing the same thing, mimicking each other’s motions, but everyone was there with a different purpose, a different reason for plunging their body temperature into the negatives on that cold Thursday night.
“Seriously, Abbey,” Jordan started once more. “What are you doing up here again? You know you’re risking your neck on those slopes you insist on throwing yourself down.” His dark eyes glimmered, angry almost. I turned my head away, focusing instead on the snow beneath us.
He exhaled, smoke twirling up into the air as he continued to fill it with words. “You know my mistakes, and you’re not like me. You’re not like the others up here. I’d be a complete idiot if I thought your mom knew you were here.”
My mind flashed back over the past few months’ worth of events, my unruliness leading to more than one close call with these strangely addicting ice-covered hills. An increase in the number of times I’ve argued with my mom, and increase in the lack of sleep I’ve gotten because of it. And an increase of the number of RN’s I’m now familiar with in the emergency room.
“You’ve got to talk to her,” Jordan woke me from my thoughts. Considerate enough to do so quietly, he added, “You can’t run forever.”
I hated him in that moment. My cheeks flushed redder than they already were as the lift started moving forward again. I hated him for his assumptions, and for his boldness. As we neared the top of the hill I prepared to race off the lift. I wanted away from him and his Dr. Phil advice. He reached over and grabbed my hand for an instant; I only looked for a moment before pulling away and pushing myself off the lift, skating off into the dark purple shadow of the mountainside.
Strapped in tight, I stood overlooking the mountainside. The night swallowed the treetops leaving only branches poking up towards the stars. A bitter winter wind tore around me, clawing at my pants and jacket and yanking at the curls in my hair. It swiftly bit any inch of skin I left exposed, explaining my bank robber appearance with a bandanna tied up over my nose. I reached up and slid a black pair of goggles down over my eyes. Their reflective orange lens gave the frozen hillside a video-game like appearance, waking up the recklessness inside of me that was considered inappropriate under more ordinary circumstances. They gave me a feeling of impenetrable immortality, or maybe that could be more rightfully attributed to being seventeen.
Without hesitation, my knees bent as I eased the edge of my board over the side of the slope, I leaned forward and gravity eagerly began pulling me down. As if just cresting a hill on a roller coaster or taking speed bump in my car a little too fast, the familiar sensation of my stomach dropping filled me as I raced off. My heart sped up, keeping pace with my board and the burn crawling into my calves as I dug them in, first demanding my body weight forward, and then forcing it back, created a delicate balance which gave me the illusion of control. In actuality, we know the piece of fiberglass strapped to our feet holds more control than any other factor as we slide down an icy mountainside, but we all enjoyed entertaining the idea that we had some sort of say in the matter.
Rivets in the snow snagged and grabbed at the edges of our boards, desperately trying to catch hold of them, which in turn sends the rider flying in whatever direction they chose. Years of practice came into play as I loosened up every muscle in my lower half, allowing my body to absorb shock from any unintended bumping or bouncing. I glided over the inconsistency of the mountains surface and took a corner fast, spraying loose powder over a now-angry skier in a red jacket.
Tears were yanked out of the corners of my eyes as I bent at the knees and forced myself lower and lower to the ground into a squatting position. Although a more difficult stance to ride, the increased aerodynamics of my now shorter figure allowed me to go even faster than before. For once though, it wasn’t helping.
Typically I could outrun my thoughts. Tonight, however, they were filling my head faster than I could match their speed. Jordan’s voice filled my ears as I dodged a boarder in green pants moving at a much slower pace than I was. The physical strain on my legs continued to grow as I pushed for more and more speed, gaining air off of any bump in the snow and whipping fast around bends.
It took me until I reached the bottom of the hill. As I slowed to a stop to avoid hitting the innocent bystanders, I paused, before allowing myself to fall back and lie looking up at the stars that I couldn’t see back at my house in town. I covered my ears with my gloved hands, as if it could keep Jordan’s voice out of my head. But he was right, and he knew it.
And lying there on that frozen ground, small bubbles of snow landing lightly around me as I watched the leafless branches curl in the wind, I knew it too.
Abbey Miklitsch's essay appears here with her express written permission and cannot be reproduced in any manner or fashion without her express written permission.