How far is it to the Alps? 7000? 8000km? I could google it or find it on some transatlantic airline schedule…or I could edit it in here later without the frozen fingers and puffy green jacket, instead of typing it out on these little Motorola buttons on my way to get my little girl….or I could just say it, my friend’s brother is dead. “I’m so sorry…”
Scott Mann was one of a handful of us who would only ski the longest ski they made…whoever, in whatever model… not to be rad or bigger-is-badder or anything like that, but because in the timeless escape into the white where gravity and faith take us to the other side of abandonment and living is beyond the moment, it made sense under his feet. I didn’t know him well, but I know that much…I know how that feels and why, and why we can’t really explain it to you.
I knew him then but forgive me I didn’t know his girlfriend’s name. I think she was French? Or Swiss? Blonde, I think I remember a picture his sister Jen showed me packaging Matchstick DVD’s and pro-deal Christmas presents in October that would notoriously arrive in Switzerland sometime near Easter. I remember his girlfriend in Whistler when we met, more than a dozen years ago, the nicest Brit I ever had a crush on…what was her name? I know I don’t know enough to say but I know we had the same skis and Jen, with that smile and her crazy curls, was my right hand and one of my closest friends for years.
In the meantime…I just wrote about the Smiths songs and the Whistler cemetery. I went there last week like it was calling me over the snowbanks plowed high by men in trucks and made my way over the mound through thigh deep footprints. I followed the steps like the little snowman covered in snowflakes wanted to tell me…to listen…come closer…shhhhhhhh, just listen…there are voices in the snow.
I wrote once not so long ago, ‘I don’t want to answer the phone.’ That was January and I didn’t answer. I learned weeks later the girl was a friend of a friend, lost to the white with her husband a turn or two ahead, too far to see, to turn back, to hear the silent voices under the snow. I can’t imagine the next day…or the day after that, or today, or tomorrow…but it comes.
I look back and don’t know how to say to my friends these things we feel and stare blankly into the empty spaces left behind their eyes and imagine I say nothing like you only can in a dream…,”I’m so sorry.” I look back through the ageless dream to the time when they lived together here, and when Scott left for Europe, and the time Jen and I both broke our legs that spring and danced on crutches at the Beagle between the 30 beers on tap at the Dubh Lynn Gate with Susie and the girls stamping the passports…10 beer for a free calamari…while he and I chased the same dream an ocean and a lifetime apart, like brothers. I know I can’t tell her that, can I? but I love her like that…I wrote and told her that much, in not so many words, and after that I made sure I told my own sister too.
There are so many details…but there is only so much time, so much life, trapped beneath the snow of this endless winter. “DNA results confirmed…”, the story said. I don’t want to know. I just want to remember. I don’t know if I read the rest, or blocked it out, or if the author was simply polite enough not to say. I don’t want to know the details. I’m caught up in details…in the pale blue reminders of my children’s eyes and their curls in the sunshine that finally comes through the blinds between Armchair and Wedge on April mornings. I need to get it out, to shout it out, to climb to the col to that rocky mound and put up a picture or one of his shop stickers or take a drink or just sit quiet and catch my breath and say a prayer that is just one step closer to god, to him, to her…to listen to the voices and see the smiles one more time.
I’ll see you tomorrow buddy…
post script: on April 23rd, 2011, 2 months after hearing the news and writing this, a group of us climbed to Blackcomb Peak together with Scotty’s ashes in a bottle in Jen’s pocket…
Godspeed, peace and wings brother