So there I was. The last class of the semester. The final. I’d just taken my seat when the Ex-Linebacker in front of me turned around.
“Hey,” he whispered with a smile, “Do you want to go sledding after class? A bunch of us are going, y’know, to let off steam.”
“Where?” I asked, intrigued but wary.
“There’s a hill at the other side of campus, we’re meeting there. It goes right down into the parking lot, but the lot’s empty.”
I hesitated. “Well…”
“C’mon,” he said with what was a genuinely charming smile. “Just go down once. It’ll be fun.”
So it was in the spirit of “just this once” that I agreed. Just one spin down the hill. After all, how much snow do we get, annually, in Virginia?
Don’t answer that.
Ex-Linebacker led a group of us to the other end of the campus where some other students were already zinging down the long hill, flying off a makeshift snow-ramp, and skidding into the parking lot. EL was right – it did look like a lot of fun. We waited in a motley group near the top of the hill as people trudged up, carrying plastic disks. EL handed me a disc.
“Race you!” he said, grabbing a sled. I followed him to the top of the hill.
Let me tell you, it looks a lot more fun when you’re not staring down the ice-slicked paths. I know about sledding – having grown up in the far northern reaches of the United States, I can say with some confidence that I’ve either been conscripted into or willingly joined many winter sports, such as dog-sledding, skiing, snow-shoeing, surprise snowball fights, and lying before a fire complaining of the cold – but I can say with some confidence that the hill looked intimidating. But in the spirit of competition, with my competitor already balancing himself precariously on a plastic disc, I didn’t let that stop me, mainly because I believe the majority of my braincells were frozen and the rest were pinging around aimlessly going “Wheee!”.
So I jumped on, and in a split second, was careening down the hill. The disc was fast, faster still with ice slicking the way. I landed neatly, my disc spinning as I hit the ground and I dared to breathe and even, yes, give a little giggle.
And then it all went egg-shaped.
EL suddenly appeared out of nowhere, in the air, sans disc. He crashed into me, sending us both wildly skidding on the parking lot. It seemed like for at least three seconds, my entire world was made up of wildly flailing arms, a mysteriously appearing boot, and ice.
I know we halted at some point, and I lay there, devoid of breath, my mind blank with the surprise. EL had helpfully grabbed me around the waist mid-collision and were it anything else other than a sledding accident, I might have had to propose then and there. As it was, EL scrambled up with impressive speed (given that I was still attempting to find out where my breath had gone) and leaned over me. His big honest face hovered over me like a frightened moon, or possibly a wheel of cheese, which is precisely the comparison my brain made at the moment. And then, of course, he asked.
“Are you okay?”
There are three responses in this situation. “Yes”, “No”, and “Nuuurrghh…”* I settled for the third choice, which came out more as an asthmatic wheeze.
EL helped me sit up, and I did a quick self-assessment. Nothing broken, though I’d lost a mitten somewhere along the way. A few students were running over but slowed as EL helped me to my feet.
“I’m so sorry,” he blathered, then something about how he’d hit a bump and the disc had come somewhere and then he hit the ramp and there was flying and then the obvious crashing and pain and he was so very sorry. He brushed snow off of my coat, then looking at me anxiously again. “Are you okay?”
I grinned, still attempting to recover my breath. “That was fun!” I wheezed. Someone had retrieved my lost mitten and EL handed it to me. “I think I won,” I said more clearly.
“I’ll let you have it this time,” he said, apparently immensely relieved that I wasn’t comatose. “You’re sure you’re okay?”
I nodded. “Just got the breath knocked out of me.”
Oh yes, and it was thus I thought, until I attempted to get up this morning and every vertebra from my shoulders down shrieked in pain and declared it a snow day altogether.
And so, I have added another thing to my list of Epically Stupid Things To Do: attempt to sled-race an ex-linebacker. Sorry EL.
*I guess in actuality, there is a forth, commonly termed as *death*.