Broken left clavicle
(A Friday during ski season)
TODAY THERE IS A HIGH LID of gray clouds clamped down over the city, but the air underneath is crystal clear. Coming across the Bay Bridge on my way to work, I note two beams of light that have managed to poke through to highlight Twin Peaks and Sutro Tower, splashes of green and red and silver blazing against the morning’s gray backdrop.
My fourth ride is a radio call, a youngish Asian woman from Pacific Heights, standing in front of her apartment building with an enormous black suitcase.
“I’m sorry it’s so heavy,” she says right off.
I lift it into the trunk, and say, “Oh, I’ve felt lots heavier.” And I have.
“I hope that’s what the airlines say,” she says, laughing, and then she has another apology: “But I’m sorry that I’m not going to the airport until this afternoon.”
I reassure her: “At the Academy, they drill us and drill us and drill us on trying to not get too excited when we see luggage. I’m usually pretty good about it, but when you mentioned ‘airlines’, I have to admit I got a little flushed. I’m over it now.”
Pretty soon we’re talking weather, and then I'm yacking about my daughter’s new infatuation with downhill skiing, which leads this woman to share a story about a guy who ran into her, quite literally, on a ski slope:
“I was skiing at Big Bear. I’m not a bad skier, but I’m not a great skier, and I came to a place were you could go over a jump or not. I didn’t -- he did. I skied around the jump, but he came flying over it. People all over the mountain said they heard the impact. My girlfriend was two chairlifts over, and she heard it. His ski hit the back of my left shoulder. But he was a good guy. He could easily have just skied away, but Ski Patrol took me down the hill in a basket, and he skied down behind us. When I was in the clinic, he told me he was the one who had hit me and he said how sorry he was, and was I okay? And at first I thought it wasn’t so bad -- it hurt, but I didn’t know it was broken until that night when I went to bed. My left clavicle...”
A shot of phantom pain seers through my collarbone region. “I broke my left clavicle in ninth grade,” I tell her. “Lying down or trying to get up out of bed was the worst part.”
“Getting up -- that was my worst..." she says. "He asked if I had insurance, and I said no -- but I said I was sure I was OK. But he said he’d really like my number anyway just to make sure. He really wasn’t looking for a date -- when I ski I don’t wear makeup, and my hair is just yanked back -- it’s not pretty. When he called I told him what had happened, that I'd actually broken my clavicle -- and he asked if he could pay my medical bills, but I told him no, and he said, 'Well at least let me take you to dinner.'
“It wasn’t long after that that I shocked my mother by telling her I was moving to Chicago, where he was from, and we were going to live together. I was only 21. We were together for four years. He was a sweet guy, but he wanted kids -- that’s something he was always interested in, and I wasn’t. Now he’s married and has two young kids.”
“Has your sentiment about having kids changed?”
“No, that hasn’t changed. Now I’m in a relationship with a wonderful man -- this afternoon I’m flying to Miami to take a cruise in the Western Carribean with him and his 14-year-old son. It’s been a privilege, really, getting to know him -- both of them -- but no, that hasn’t changed my sentiment at all. If anything, it’s strengthened it...”
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Labels: Big Bear Ski Area