I KNOW. I owe you the end of Bizarro Me 3. IT’S NOT READY YET. DEAL WITH IT.
I met Mark Tarly on a snowy December afternoon in the ski patroller’s hut at Stowe Mountain. I don’t remember getting there, but I remember lying on the thin cot with the shattered remains of my ski helmet next to me. There was a long crack running from the forehead all the way down to the apex of the curved form, and the foam insulation had crumpled into 3 distinct pieces.
I was staring up at a hole in the ceiling that looked as if it had been punched through it and when my head finally started to come back to earth, I realized that I’d been staring at that same spot for a long time, uncomprehending. Worse, it was a familiar hole, a familiar faded ceiling, with large rectangular light fixtures set slightly crookedly. All of the sudden, like I’d known where I was and what was happening the whole time, everything clicked into place. That was familiar too, the sudden return to my senses, and I knew I had a fairly decent concussion. It was not my first one.
“I’m back again,” I call out, and one of the ski patrollers, Tom Monathan, comes over and frowns at me like he’s hiding a smile.
“We got to stop meeting like this, Susan,” he says, running his fingers through his salt and pepper hair. He’d gotten a haircut since the last time I’d been in.
“What did I do this time, Tom?” I asked.
“Same as usual. Cliff off the bottom of the Kitchen Wall. I keep telling you it’s not skiable, hon. You gotta let this one go.”
“Not just yet,” I replied, settling deeper into the thin medical pillows I was propped up on. Tom rolled his eyes, then launched into the standard series of questions he’s asked me a million times before – what was my name – Susan Pritchard – how old was I – 25 – where did I live – 340 Mulberry Road. No, I didn’t smell anything weird. Yes, my vision was fine. No, I was skiing alone.
Finally satisfied that I was okay for the time being, Tom went off to fill out some paperwork so I could leave. As soon as he turned the corner, I sat up and picked up my shattered ski helmet. All hopes of repair were thwarted as soon as I got a better look at the crumpled styrofoam lining and the spider vein cracks in the plastic, but I juggled with it for a few minutes trying to fit the pieces back together. My efforts quickly attracted the attention of the guy directly across from me, who watched as I examined the clean fractures.
“Hello there,” he said when I gave up on the helmet, “I see you’re finally back in the land of the living. You were in La La land half an hour ago when I came in. Tom told me you’re a regular around these parts.”
“You must be the peanut gallery,” I replied. He grinned a movie poster kind of white teeth smile and shrugged.
“I’m Mark,” he said, reaching out with a heavily bandaged right hand across the aisle, which was clearly too wide for a handshake, “I took a ski edge across the hand. Went down on the Clip underneath one of my buddies. You?”
“I’m Susan,” I said, extending mine towards his, “I don’t quite know what happened to me, which is fairly typical.” He laughed at that and we shook hands without touching over the aisle.
“You look like trouble, Susan.” Mark said.
“Looks can be deceiving.”
“But are they?” he asked.
I smiled and reached out my hand for the form Tom wanted me to sign. Mark watched as I scrawled my name lazily over the page.
Whether it was because I was still kind of woozy or because he had eyes like a glacier melt in March, I’ll never know, but I let him wrestle my phone number out of me all the same.