Paul would not leave my side. We shuffled forward to the red plastic line in the snow and turned to watch the four-person chair on the White Pine lift as it scooped us up. A middle-aged woman and a little girl in a puffy lavender ski suit scurried to my right to claim the last two seats. I smiled as the woman hefted her daughter onto the chair while balancing herself and her poles at that precise moment when the chair swung around and kicked our heavy feet out from under us.
The four of us sat in silence on the chair, our boots and skis dangling as the white-blanketed ground passed below. My eyes followed the skiers bouncing off the moguls below the rising chair. I readjusted my goggles and began counting the trees—anything so that I wouldn’t have to talk to Paul. We were already in different worlds, even if he didn’t know it. About 100 yards short of the hop-off point, Paul yanked the metal bar over our heads and swung his poles in front of his lap, never taking his eyes off the chair exit point far ahead. The woman gasped and threw her arm across the little girl’s chest like a brace.
“What are you doing?” I shrieked, raising my gloved hand to pull the bar back down to our waists. “You’re not the only person on this chair!” My freezing cheeks burned hot with anger against the cold mountain air. The woman shot Paul the stink eye. Paul rolled his eyes. He didn’t lift a finger. It was the first time I’d seen him so cold and selfish around a child. Paul huffed deeply, which was much more familiar. I’d earned über-exasperated Paul huffs not only for my work and gardening routines, but also for not cleaning out my SUV before our trip to Home Depot and for buying a suede jacket (on clearance for $33 at TJ Maxx) without his advance approval.
My head kept shaking. Paul kept huffing. Then, it hit me like an avalanche. His actions on that ski lift were the same I’d seen for years: Paul lived by his rules. His way. No compromise. That man would catch a cold from ice in his soul, Christina Perri. The embarrassment and resentment filled my pounding chest. Our intimacy issues were driving me away, but his insensitivity around a helpless child was a final straw. I ignored Paul’s incessant growls for me to “hurry up” as I zigzagged to the bottom of the powdery slope. The entire afternoon, I skied alone, carving my memories of our last skip trip into a blanket of white powder with the California sun warming my face.