How We Met
“I don’t give my number to just any gorgeous girl,” I said, smiling like an idiot, “especially one who’s saved my life…” She dropped her chin and stared at me with surprise, ocean green eyes penetrating. My wrapped broken wrist lifted my drink, Seagram’s gin and tonic, garnished with confidence and pain medication. She continued her story of how we first met… I was unconscious when it happened.
The day started great. Sunny skies toasted the sierra snow. Clouds were absent. Typical spring conditions snowboarding California’s Squaw Valley. We were lapping the terrain park.
I remember my friends with their long shaggy hair, trendy, fashionably trashy gear. We’d meet at the gate on the top of the park. One by one, we’d exchange smiles, look down to our planned lines, adjust our headphones, goggles, gloves, and start.
“Dropping!” I yelled. Facing downhill, I leapt forward, landed flat on my board, right foot downhill. I started picking up speed.
The first jump was the smallest. A warm up to practice for the giants ahead. As I sped upwards the ramp, I pre-loaded my body for take off. A spring coil ready to explode.
Release. I jumped off my toes, rotating my back to the landing, flying blind, and came down on my heels. “Thanks for Nothing” by Sum 41 blared in my headphones. The landing was clean. A simple trick for many. I flattened my feet for more speed, ready for the next jump.
I was then left foot forward, “Switch” in snowboarder terms. It felt slightly unnatural coming into the next jump, like riding backwards. That’s why music’s important for some, a distraction from reality, from the world, from consequences like falling. I dropped my shoulder and started my spin. It was fast, slightly inverted. I felt the air blowing against my face and spotted my landing. It was a bit further than I expected, but at least I was upright. My feet hit the snow evenly and stable. I heard people cheering even over my headphones, a most rewarding sound for my fragile ego. I rode on. Right foot forward.
It was the last, far from least, third jump. The biggest one. The final test of the trail. My music was peaking at the chorus of the song. It’s all I focused on. I wished it was louder. Air guitar in hand, I began my ascension. I thought my speed was good as once again, I leapt from my toes. My upper body plunged downward to where my feet had been, a standard backflip with a 540 degree rotation. It felt like forever I flew through the air. I spotted my landing. I wouldn’t be upright in time.
A philosophy I coached to new snowboarders was, “It’s not how good you are at riding, but how good you fall”. That’s when it mattered, like then. I knew it would hurt.
My toe edge speared into the snow like a missile, sending an explosion of snowy shrapnel all around me. My spine crumpled as my knee hit my face. Its the last thing I remembered.
“Sir, can you hear me” she snapped her fingers, “ What hurts.” Ski patrol had come and began their assessment. I was fading in and out of consciousness. “My name’s Samantha. Can you tell me what yours is?”
“No, that’s my name. What’s yours?,” she said. A guardian angel stared down at me. Justin, came up and explained we’re both Sams. Darkness enveloped me again.
I would later learn that unconscious patients are her favorite kind. They don’t complain as much. Unfortunately for her, I woke up again. I was surrounded by red. Her and a team of ski patrol jackets with white, Maltese crosses on their backs were strapping me onto a board. I guessed the red was to camouflage blood. I was reminded of a childhood accident where I’d been hit by a speeding Ford F-150. I had cried on a similar backboard screaming for a pillow. Today seemed worse.
“Who’s touching my butt!,” I muttered, punch-drunk and confused.
“That’s me, Sam.” She stayed focused on strapping down my legs.
“Buy me a drink first,” I smiled. Despite a traumatic accident, I still knew to flirt. Unconsciousness returned. She snapped a photo as they loaded me into the helicopter that rushed me to the hospital. A week later, I woke from a coma…
It was a month after when we met again. She was dressed as a leprechaun for saint patrick’s day, drinking at the bar I’d soon be returning to bartend at.
Mona was working instead. “Sam!” Mona yelled to get my attention.
The leprechaun and I both turned. That’s when she recognized me.
“You’re Sam, right?” She walked up to me. I was confused as to why such a beautiful stranger knew my name. Apparently my beard and tattoos looked familiar to her from when I was laying on the ground broken. “Im the ski patrol that saved your life. Give me your number so I can send you the photo of you being loaded in the chopper.”
I’ve never considered myself a genius, far from it actually. The best example of this, the biggest mistake I’ve ever made, was waiting three years to ask her out. She saved my life that first day we met, calling a helicopter in time. I feel she’s made it better every day since. Now, were engaged.
Skiing and snowboarding are extreme sports, therefore, extreme consequences are included. Accidents happen. Maybe this risk is part of the appeal, accounting for over 50 million skiers on the hills around the world. We understand this danger. We know that risking our lives has an immeasurable return, both in fitness and euphoria. But when the result is meeting the love of your life, the splendor of ski resorts is truly illuminated.
how they asked
“Sir! You’ve been in an accident!” she yelled.
I don’t remember that part, nor the following week after that I spent in a coma. I crashed on a snowboard jump and nearly died. She’s the ski patrol that saved my life. That’s how we met.
1,246 days later, after flirting, dating, eggs benedict breakfasts, moving in together, and months of her being the best friend and roommate I’ve ever had, my 33rd birthday happened. We spent it on Lake Tahoe. Her and I continuously shuttled friends on our boat from all parts of the lake back to our beach party.
At 2:22pm, as we were about to pull in and settle, I shut off the engine a few hundred feet offshore. There was a birthday gift under the seat. It was for her. She squinted her eyes suspiciously as I handed it to her. Inside was a white sundress, lacy on the chest, open in the back to show off her flower tattoos. I started reading the accompanying card.
“Samantha Emily Crystal Rawlings, my life with you has been the best it’s ever been.” I got on one knee. Her eyes sprung open as she put her hands over her mouth. “You’re the most beautiful person I’ve ever met… visually, mentally, and in the way you live life. You’re best birthday gift anyone could ask for, but could I request one more thing?” I pointed behind her to where the party was. All of our friends had gathered on the dock, holding three white banners with large black letters. The first one read “WILL”, the second said “YOU”, the final had “MARRY” on it. When she turned back to me, I showed her what was on the card I was reading from. All it said was “me?”. Beneath it I held an engagement ring. A shiny band of twisted rose gold, topped with a cluster of diamonds in the shape of a snowflake. A symbol of the winter we were first introduced and our future lives entwining together.
“Yes!” She shouted through tears of joy, plunging into my arms. I nearly cried myself…. I couldn’t wait to spend the rest of my life with her, the reason I’m alive today.