Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year

On my 25th New Year I was in Bergun Switzerland with five friends in a bar. I was the only girl. I didn’t love any of them and they didn’t love me. We decided after a few pints of beer to take a train higher up into the Alps and ride a toboggan down the trail. Ben had read earlier in the day, in some flyer by the museum, that the trail was lit at night. We thought it would be a wonderful way to start the New Year.

I don’t remember being afraid, I don’t remember thinking that I should be. I know that Henry told me the sled could reach speeds of forty to fifty miles per hour and I thought that was slow…IN A CAR.

I wanted to go alone. I knew I wanted to drive myself, my two feet on the runners. I wanted to beat the boys. The first light, the big lamp over my head was a moon, the mountains felt like water. The first light was my only light. Once you begin there’s no way to stop, once you begin the only way down is to continue.

To the Swiss lit meant one light at the top of the trail and one light at the bottom. It was three miles of flying, of trying to see the curves ahead, of bending your body low, anticipating the path, leaning in the direction opposite of the one you needed to go. You forget after the fear stays in your throat, that you want to live. There’s no way to stop, no path to walk down.

Henry said he wet his pants before the first hundred yards. I ran over Ben after the second mile. I lifted into the air, held on. I know my body. I know water even when it is cold. I have strong legs and a great need to survive.

I wish I could explain the way it felt flying over the small bridges, of looking up and seeing the stars, how the trees huddled together and how sometimes when the incline straighten, when I looked below it was as if I was looking into a dark mirror, the nothing and endless miles of falling.

I remember thinking of my parents in Maine, asleep in their beds, safe and not dreaming. I remember missing the ocean, of feeling so strange in the Alps--the world didn’t go on, it somehow stopped here, with me. One girl, no one could imagine. No one could say I know Teresa Ballard, and this is what she is doing. This is how I think she will die.

When I reached the last curve I saw the light. I saw the small houses in the village, unlike the mountians from where I had been, so in need of order. I saw shadows walked across the orange light. I began to see other people. My body stretched out, relaxed. The land widen, the trees separated. I didn’t want to stop. I bent myself in half so I could keep going so I could find another place to take off.


Sam of the ten thousand things said...

Wonderful descriptive of movement and a feeling of darkness. A good way to begin any year. Thanks for sharing.

LKD said...

Happy new year, Early Hours.

Always be this fierce and fearless in your life and in your writing.

Radish King said...
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Artichoke Heart said...

This is gorgeously written and amazing. YOU are amazing! Happy New Year!!

Lyle Daggett said...

This blew me away. I'm terrified of doing this kind of thing -- you'd never catch me trying it even in daylight and sober.