Failure to Launch
The legacy of one William Shakespeare specifically outlined the various separate qualities of a tragedy and a comedy: two stories destined never to interlink, telling tales of diverse passions, whether joyful or dour.
On the other hand, the legacy of me, you ask? Well, I managed to break down any visible barrier between the two-story structure and completely unmask the bullshit of Shakespeare in an hour. To give it to you straight, the day I went skiing for the first time at Hakuba was the day I acknowledged my life to occupy both the tragedy and the comedy.
For the record, I had never really seen snow before Hakuba. Just think of that: a little dark-skinned boy from ye olde Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, skiing for the first time in Japan. And, as an extension of that, being able to use this otherworldly opportunity at one of the world’s most famous ski resorts to debut my skiing passion… how could this not have been a dream come true?
Upon the chairlift, ascending into the eternal white, my eyes darted below to the pro-like ants that tore through the snow. They shredded the flakes that had fell to the earth that previous night and, as they did, their souls chuckled with joy.
When the chair lift came to a halt, in a matter of seconds, I panicked, swerved and, unsurprisingly, fell.
When my face hit the snow, the ice that pierced my skin came second to the pain of my pretzel legs, bent under the pressure of the skis folding in on themselves. I noticed the amassing crowd of hyenas chortling at the sight of my (almost) corpse, spreadeagled across the mountainside.
“Help,” I muttered.
Coming to my aid, my friends resurrected my numb body and decided the time was ripe to teach me how to ski.
As they discussed and shared the basics of the skiing model, I, a kilometre back, was struggling to even walk across the ice to join the group. When I eventually did, they turned and simply said, smiling, “Did you get all that?”
Fuck. “Ahh… yeah.”
And like that, they were gone, their black specks racing down the mountainside, diving down into a community of hungry snow people crowding the gift stores and restaurants. My chances of making it down this hill were slowly becoming impossible.
I donned the skis and sought motivation, racking my brain for motivation. It came to me in the voice of Owen Wilson in Cars: “I am speed. Faster than fast; quicker than quick. Kachow.”
My launch did not go as swiftly as I planned. I clumsily wobbled, muttered slurs under my breath then proceeded to gracefully fall to my demise a metre from the take-off point.
This one routine happened, oh, I don’t know, about 10 times. After 15 minutes had passed with no real progress being made, I kicked a hole in the snow and dropped my ass in it.
“Hey!” I turned to the shriek as my friends rolled up in a circle, binding me to the very spot I sat. “You all good?”
“Ahh, yeah, just taking a break.”
I could see in their eyes they didn’t believe a word. Shamefully staring at my feet, I pretended I couldn’t see them stare at one another with a united shrug of, “What do we do about him?”
“You’re gonna have to make it down there somehow.”
They left again. In 15 minutes, they had flown down the mountain and come up again whilst I, well, I had made it from under the chair lift to the centre of the slope, maybe five metres away.
Begrudgingly, I got to my feet and reapplied the skis. Again, I pushed off from my position and descended with full expectations of snow returning to my mouth in seconds. But the seconds passed and I wasn’t yet dead. For some profound reason, I was still up — moving down faster than before, but I was okay with it.
I was fucking skiing! And then, I was fucking flying.
Laying back in the snow, I looked down the right side of the mountain to the nearest cafe. It wasn’t lunchtime, but consistently faceplanting really takes it out of you. I was hungry.
I noticed an organic ramp in the form of a mound of snow that created a perfect path to the doors of the cafe. Like a curious puppy, my head titled. Maybe I couldn’t make it down the mountain, but I could at least make it to a bowl of ramen on my skis. I swear, if a snowball was thrown at me now, I would probably need three months of counselling.
I took position and off I went. Airborne off the ramp. The adrenaline was back. The fear of the fall and the joy of the ride. I was going to make it. I was going to –
Faceplant. And again, I clumsily stood back up.
“Yep, I’m done.”
With my skis under one arm and the poles under the other, I trudged to the cafe broken and done.
Standing outside the cafe was a heavily bearded man applauding with laughter. His Dutch accent was difficult to understand in its entirety, but I think I got the crux of the message as I walked past him.
“You ski like my wife,” he chuckled.
As the warmth of the cafe hit my body and pleasure returned to my absent soul, I gained a moment of retrospection for the Shakespearean tragedy that had befallen me. Tragic circumstances lend comedic effect to passionate moments of certainty. Even though skiing did not end up being “my thing”, it was, at the very least, a thing. A thing I was starting to find comical.
I had come to Hakuba as a boy, hoping to ski down as a man, but had instead made it as a Dutch’s man wife.
As the hour ticked over and I made it to the cashier holding up one finger to indicate my desire to eat alone and in peace, he looked at me with severe concern.
“Oh sorry, sorry, uhh, only table for two, table for more than two.”
“So, I can’t eat here?”
My legacy: a tragic comedy indeed.