Parallel Skis

Parallel Skis

A Story by Write4theSky

a personal essay about my brother


The geometry of his parallel skis declared that precision was carving down the mountain in front of me. His upper body never wavered from its crouch as his legs dove left to right in quick sharp turns. Following him, I ignored the sun’s slow ascent from distant hills and my subsequent shivering. Nothing could chill my enthusiasm for this rare occasion. Today I would see and understand why he gave up his potential in ski racing for freestyle skiing. Today he would show me his “newschooler” tricks! I shook off my lethargy, loving the "shah" sound my skis made as they carved across the face of the mountain. The wind tugged my hair and whispered in my ears. How could I have known the shock coming, or its stressful aftermath?
            Despite the fact that the lifts had just opened, there was already a group of his friends in the terrain park. I discreetly watched Sam from a distance: it wouldn’t be cool for the little sister to tag along. He was first up: he flew to the jump, and I felt his skis being tipped into the air at an exact angle. Then he did a complicated “pop”- trick- involving spinning one way, then switching directions. I guessed it was difficult by the cheers of appreciation from his audience. The next jump was larger, and he sized it up, puffing out his chest. “Galen, record this one,” he called to the man with a video camera who stood below the jump. I watched avidly; what was he going to perform for me next? The morning was a delightful show in which my brother was holding the role of the hero perfectly. The sun conquered the hills and lit up behind him, very nearly illuminating the invisible halo that rested on his head, confirming he was protected by gods. Wheeling like a rocket down the slope, he didn’t even pause as he neared the lip of the jump.
            A moment later, the show would become much too real for my liking. I like to pretend that the world briefly stopped in anticipation of that moment, allowing one last “before” shot to be imprinted in my mind: seeing him jump into the air with absolute confidence. That image represents the belief I held as a truth, solid and real as the mountain I stood on that day, which was that Sam was unbreakable. But time could not stay frozen, and my conviction in the safety my brother collapsed when reality resumed.

Sam flew into the air and my stomach dropped. He was upside down! He could break his neck! When I acknowledged that thought, a flicker of vulnerability was carved into him and me. His helmet abruptly fell off mid-air, and my temples pounded and ached as if they were the bare ones. The impact of head against the frozen ground under snow could kill easily. Who was my brother to think he could flip? My fear was trapped in my throat like a rat caught in a pitch black tunnel. I tore my eyes from his spinning body, and silently despised the other onlookers for not having looks of terror on their faces. My feelings were externally imperceptible from my motionless stance, but dangerous ideas shattered in my mind like the glass that had been broken by a stray baseball so many summers ago.

Sam circled like the hands of a clock going back in time. Slowly his cycle completed itself, but too slowly. Hitting the ground on his side, he skated against ice and plowed away the powder. I wanted to ski to him at that moment, needing to know he was okay. But what if he was fine and I embarrassed him in front of his friends? Or much worse, what if he was badly hurt? Sam had never taken off his armor in front of me. He was a knight with a damsel who believed he was invincible; how could he not succeed? Yet there he was, lying on the cold firm ground: the boy who had won the support of immortal gods had just been proved to be very mortal. I sped away down the mountain, knowing he would assume I had gotten bored though the opposite was true. The show in the terrain park would go on, but I couldn’t handle witnessing its recovery.
            That day is marked in my memory as the start of Sam’s career in freestyle and mine in worrying. This constant winter-time stress is similar to a chain of Christmas lights- during the day they are unnoticed, but in the darkness they constantly flicker in the background: Sam hurt, Sam, Sam hurt. My nightmares focus on enveloping white sheets that absorb expensive scarlet spilt until the rusted metal is all that is left of my brother and his aspiration. But how can I be upset about the danger he puts himself in when he is pursuing what he loves?

After the incident I had to tear apart some beliefs I had been unconsciously fabricating for most of my life. I had routinely heard about the false mindset teenagers held about risks, but thought I was different. I was an acquaintance of death, having attended the funerals of elderly distant relatives. But I too was shielded as I grew to believe that only the old and prepared could die. My fairytale world caved when I saw Sam susceptible to injury, but only reality has taught me an inkling of the concept of death. And though I still deny thoughts of danger when I am feeling weak, I am beginning to see that people fall every day. They fall because they took risks, because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time, because someone omniscient knew they were one of the few strong enough to get up again, or for reasons I will never contemplate.

I am just as confident in Sam as I was before his crash, but now I hold a different conviction. I used to be sure Sam could not break: now I believe that when he does, he will do his best to get back up again. I watch him through the window as he practices on the rail he built in our backyard. I admire his perseverance so much; he spends hours falling on his butt, and a week later has the trick down cold. He never wastes time anymore. When there is snow, he is skiing. I understand what he feels, and hope I have the strength to pursue my passion, writing, like he does skiing. He inspires me to do something that matters in the world and persist in following what I care about. Often when I am just “hanging out”, he is on the mountain, satiating his dream with a community of people who are dedicated like him. My world would collapse if the nightmares came true, but the rest of the world would keep living, experiencing, doing. Sam is finding the adventures worth taking chances for, and I am so proud of him for showing me that the world is not waiting for me to learn how to live life.

 I have realized and at last accepted why no other onlookers were openly concerned for Sam’s safety as he spun through the air: taking risks is part of his sport. I was a coward and child to think that if I skied away and didn’t see the danger, I could somehow keep him safe. Because surely he could only get hurt if I was there, right? I should have known better and stood by him. I cannot allow my fears to gnaw through the rope of my wits. My first step to maturing and supporting my brother is to trust that the joy he gets from freestyle skiing is worth the risk. Still, he often shows me a bruise covering his entire thigh, the traces of his day on the mountain, and it takes me back to that first day of free-styling. That memory creates a truth that propels me in every circumstance: Sam has chosen his passion and now I have to chase mine, perils and all. 

© 2010 Write4theSky

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Added on March 16, 2010
Last Updated on March 23, 2010




I appreciate edits. I hope my work can speak for itself. more..