—Sunday, February 26, 2012—
It was around 8:45 a.m. on a Sunday and I had woken up a later than I had hoped. My date, Sonia, was picking me up at “9-ish,” so that we could spend the day snowboarding, and I was supposed to have breakfast ready for our road trip.
The late wake up wasn’t a huge deal — “9-ish” was subjective anyway — but I expected that she would try to get a hold of me sooner rather than later.
I took a shit, brushed my teeth and showered, in that order, and still had no word from Sonia. This was a bit suspicious, but maybe she was simply going to show up at my door. I got the impression from her OkCupid profile that she was a bit atypical. I didn’t want to get our breakfast too long before her arrival, lest the coffee be cold, so I texted her for an ETA while I got dressed. This was around 9:30 a.m.
Sonia texted back within a few minutes explaining that her alarm had been set for p.m. and so she had just woken up. She felt like a jerk and said that she’d be lightning fast, but I told her not to worry. I was safe and sound in my apartment, not stranded atop a mountain. It really wasn’t so bad from my perspective — it afforded me some time to fold the laundry I had neglected since Tuesday night, so I did just that.
When she texted me 30 minutes later saying that she would be there soon, I walked over to Othello and picked up a bagel, a breakfast sandwich, two coffees and two waters. As soon as I reentered my apartment, I had a text from Sonia saying that she was five blocks away. I grabbed my bag, the food and headed right back out the door.
As soon as I exited my building, I saw Sonia’s car pulled up in front and she got out to greet me. She had on a really funky multi-colored top, some kind of tight pants that sort of looked like relaxed fit leggings and cool leather shoes. Combined with her short, spunky hair, she had a very interesting look, but I already knew that much from her OkC profile. She was cool, confident and immediately friendly.
She apologized a bunch, saying she felt bad, but it was really not a problem. We were only leaving about an hour later than originally planned and Mountain Creek wasn’t going anywhere. I would have felt similarly apologetic though.
Once we were both in the car, Sonia mapped our route to Mountain Creek, which was about an hour and a half away in Northern New Jersey. I offered to navigate, so I kept an eye on her phone. I did a pretty shit job getting us out of Queens, but I managed it eventually. This was particularly shameful because I lived a block from the highway. But I didn’t drive, so I didn’t know which streets were one way or anything else that proved helpful.
However, by the time we hit the highways and byways, we were good to go. We ate our food, drank our coffees and talked a bunch. Sonia was quite outgoing and exceedingly friendly. She smiled in my general direction a lot, which made me feel like a cool dude.
The trip didn’t seem long at all and our ability to keep the conversation going was a big part of that. We never really let the conversation drop between discussions about our professions (She was a civic and large project engineering consultant. Waste systems, clean water, etc.), music (She played drums in a rock band in Jerz), winter driving conditions and snowboarding.
Sonia was a fairly regular boarder, but I hadn’t been snowboarding in roughly 12 years, not since the winter I began wrestling in high school. Previously, I had gone quite often, but who knew if those skills would actually return to me? Considering the large gap in experience, I had been fairly nervous about my ability to perform, but I was pretty used to that sensation from all other aspects of my life.
We also drove through where Sonia was from in Hackensack, NJ. She expressed at one point that she couldn’t believe she knew me from the internet and that I was in her car, en route to go snowboarding. It was kind of nuts, if she stopped to think about it. I assured her that I was not crazy and that she would be okay. But, she asked, what if she was the crazy one? Well, then I guess I was fucked.
As we neared the mountain, Sonia asked me what my dream job would be and my answer was the same one I’d given since 2007, when my friend Austin asked me that question: “Not a job.” She could understand where I was coming from, not wanting to do anything that I considered a job, from but told me that it was hard to be productive when working for yourself on your own passions. She had taken off the summer after school and hadn’t done nearly as much as she wanted to. That was okay, I guessed, because it was more about figuring things out than being productive. Even if it were temporary, I told her that I wanted to have a period like that at some point.
I’d never been one for taking time to think things over. It was easier to stay busy and get distracted by the next thing. I needed a break at some point.
We parked the car and made our way up to the ski lodge where we split up so I could secure a snowboard rental. The process had been modernized since I was a child, with an introduction video and everything, and it went smoothly. I got my boots, secured a locker and we went to wait in line for a board.
Upon mentioning that I’d had to borrow snow pants from my roommate and that I generally didn’t own any clothing appropriate for snow activities, we got to talking about how we both dressed. Sonia told me that she was most comfortable when naked, or mostly naked, which was why the summer was great for her. Despite her proclivity towards showing skin, she did clarify that she didn’t want to look like a slut or anything. By this time, it was already apparent that Sonia would talk about most anything, so I was not surprised when she told me this. She liked to shock people, throw them off and generally mess with society a bit. That was cool. I could dig it.
Once my snowboard was in hand, we made our way over to a relatively easy slope. Despite the fact that we’d be easing into things, I was still a bit nervous. I couldn’t even remember whether I rode regular or goofy. I ride goofy, right? Well, I knew that I put my right foot forward, but I couldn’t remember which was regular and which was goofy. Sonia confirmed my memory though, assuring me that I rode goofy. At least I had figured out how to stand on the board.
I was nervous mostly about falling while skating along, or getting on the lift…or just standing. I felt like those small moments were the ones where the potential for embarrassment were highest. I had already told Sonia to prepare for being embarrassed around me, but I made it onto the lift with no problem. I even made it off, which had been a huge concern of mine. That small descent from the chairlift was my first little bit of boarding in over a decade.
We coasted over to the side of where the slope began, sat down and strapped in. All right. It was time.
I stood up on my board, smiled at Sonia and turned my nose down the mountain. I was off to the races and it didn’t take me very long to get the feel of it again. Sonia reminded me to bend at the knees and that helped me settle into it even more. I made it all the way down, carving back and forth quite a bit, with no trouble at all. Hey! I didn’t fall. Nice!
In line for our second run, Sonia and I talked about interesting first dates. This one was definitely up there on the list, she said, although it wasn’t actually that weird. After all, we were doing something she loved to do, but yeah, the fact that I was from the internet was kind of funny. I told her that I’d been to a wedding and I’d already told her that my tattoo was a date, so snowboarding wasn’t that odd in my world. We made it to the top for our second run and I was feeling pretty good. I took the slope again with no issue.
At the conclusion of our run, I told her we should move on to something bigger. She asked if I was sure and, after I checked to confirm that I wasn’t simply being overconfident, I told her that I was sure. We unstrapped from our boards and walked over to the lift to the larger slopes of the mountain.
By this time, it was hella warm out (As our West coast Brethren would say). We shared an odd, basket-like gondola with some other people to the top on the slope and decided to take the most challenging of the routes available there. I did fine, which was good, as it began to build my confidence back up.
We went on the same gondola lift twice, talking on the way up each time, which was funny because there were typically five other silent people along for the ride. We took a second run and I felt good, finally getting loose and allowing myself to pick up some speed. At the bottom of the run, Sonia told me that I didn’t have to try to keep up if I wasn’t ready yet. I wasn’t simply trying to keep up, I assured her. I wanted to be going that fast. If anything, I was being a mildly reckless, but not to a point where I felt unsafe.
After a third run down the Vernon Peak, we decided to hit up the next peak, so we went up the gondola once more and then took a lateral trail that led us over to the base of Granite Peak. It got a little hairy on the way over, when we ran into some congestion from converging trails, but we both made it through all right.
On the next lift, we talked about sports and doing rough and tumble activities. Sonia had a very adventurous personality and loved all that kind of stuff. She also had very striking blue/green eyes.
We made a couple more runs up and down Granite and at some point along the way, I asked Sonia what she thought was fascinating about herself. She told me that she was highly dynamic, which I could already sense from her, and that she had a good head on her shoulders. Not everyone thought like her, she said. She also saw a lot of beauty in the world and tried to take it all in, every little gem.
I had asked her a difficult question and she answered it readily and confidently. I was impressed. When she turned the question around on me, I couldn’t help but echo most of what she had said. I felt very similar about myself but acknowledged that I was not as good at taking advantage of my strengths or executing on the opportunities they provided. I was still working on that.
On our fourth trip up the mountain, Sonia turned to me and said, unprompted by anything else, “So, you’re pretty hot.” It was a surprising and extremely flattering compliment, but I couldn’t help but feel like I didn’t deserve it. “Oh yeah? Well, thanks,” I replied.
Sonia laughed at me before saying, “It’s weird — you responded to that in a questioning tone.” She was right! Why couldn’t I just take the compliment? I had to be suspicious of it and for no good reason. This led into a discussion about compliments, hitting on people and how being forward and taking compliments were both things that I was working on. I had learned that I wasn’t a creep, so when I complimented a woman, it generally wasn’t taken as being too forward nor was it found to be objectifying.
Since we were on the topic of compliments, and I’d already been thinking about it, I told Sonia that she had beautiful eyes. She accepted the compliment readily and told me that she was the opposite of most women, at least the women she was typically around, because she liked forward guys. She enjoyed being chatted up, hit on and she enjoyed having drinks bought for her. To be fair though, she acted the same way towards men. She enjoyed hitting on them and she asked dudes out regularly. She was a forward person and she liked forward people in return. That was good to know.
Over the course of these runs on Granite Peak, I had finally regained my snowboarding composure enough to attempt some small jumps. On the third run or so, I had my first tumble while attempting to take my first jump. My body didn’t remember what felt like to hit the jump, fly through the air or land, so the whole thing was a very quick learning experience. I ate shit, but it wasn’t too bad. A run later, Sonia hit the ground hard after a jump. It knocked the wind out of her, but otherwise she was fine. In subsequent runs, I got the hang of it a bit more and caught a little air without falling.
After roughly five runs, we decided to hit up the third peak, South Peak, and we once again had to ride a trail over from the top to get there. As we made our final ascent up Granite Peak, Sonia informed me that she really had to pee. The lift paused about half way up the mountain, so it took much longer than normal. We agreed to find a bathroom at the bottom of the next trail, or if she felt the need, she said she was cool with peeing in the woods. That was cool. I liked a woman who peed in the woods. I asked her if she could pee standing up — a rare skill that my father claimed some women possessed — and though she couldn’t, she said that she wanted to learn how.
The trail over to South Peak was long and relatively flat, such that I came to a stop at least twice. Halfway there though, no one was around, so we stopped and peed. When we finally got over and down to the base of South Peak, we took a break from snowboarding for some water.
After using the bathroom again, Sonia realized that she had dropped her goggles outside somewhere. We walked out of the lodge to find her goggles hanging on a rail in plain view. Someone must have been feeling kind, found them and put them there for her. That was nice of them. We sat down at one of the outdoor picnic benches for a few minutes to recoup our energy.
It wasn’t too long before our rest had done its job and we decided to get back on the mountain. As we walked toward the lifts, we talked about falling down while boarding and how sometimes it seemed best to simply accept that it was happening and give over to it. I was reminded of something that someone had once told me that about a car accident. They told me that in car accidents, many people were injured because they braced at the last second. The rigidity of their bodies and resistance they presented on impact actually hurt them more than if they’d accepted their fate and gone limp like rag dolls.
As I described this to Sonia, I remembered that the person had been talking about a car crash that I was involved in, but I was asleep when it occurred and had walked away relatively unharmed. They hypothesized that I was unscathed because I had been asleep and not fighting it. Sonia asked me about the accident and if other people were hurt. I told her yes, my parents were both hurt. In fact, my mother had died in that accident. Sonia was sympathetic and kind, but not to a point where I felt babied.
Just like that, I had once again brought up my mother’s death on a date. This one felt incredibly organic though, since I had begun the conversation with no clue that I was talking about the very thing that led to her demise.
On the lift, I talked about being a serial monogamist, how I was used to always having someone close to me and how I operated within my group of friends. More often than not, I was the one who participated the least in group activities and was therefor sometimes out of the loop. It reminded me that I needed to reach out to my friends more. I tended to isolate myself, though I wasn’t sure why, because I liked being around people and socializing perhaps more than anything else.
Sonia followed up my rambling by asking me when I was the most like myself and I didn’t know the answer. It was a really difficult question. I tried to think of scenarios where my behavior was unhindered. I guessed that maybe it was improv, because I loved it so much and it was free-form, but that was flawed because I was constantly thinking and editing while doing improv. My next guess was while in bed, but definitely not during sex. Those morning moments where I didn’t want to wake up and maybe even yelled at myself to get out of bed before falling asleep again. Those were honest moments.
Having another person there helped too. I was often myself with someone else there to serve as a mirror, so long as I didn’t have to make conversation. There were those bed moments in-between pillow talk and intimacy where I was very much myself. After all, I was an audience-driven person. Yet, in another direction, I was very much myself when I had absolutely nothing to do and no one to please. An empty apartment with no one around and no where to be. This question quietly drove me crazy, in a contemplative way, because I had such a range of emotions and behaviors that it was hard to peg down when I was the most like me.
By the time we finally took our last run of the day, I was feeling great about my reentry into the world of snowboarding. Sonia and I debated going back to Vernon Peak, so that we’d be closer to the main lodge, and we found that a shuttle bus was necessary to get us there. She told me she could ride more, as could I, but we decided to get back to Vernon before we officially called it quits.
I haven’t mentioned how good of a snowboarder Sonia was because that was never in question. She was good — I was the one we both had to look out for. That said, she told me as we walked to the shuttle, that she was impressed with my snowboard skills considering I hadn’t been in so long. Though I had been nervous, I never actually thought that I would totally suck. I was more worried about being a 26 year old snowboarding like a 13 year old than I was about falling down every minute. Still though, so much time had passed that I really didn’t know what to expect. I was happy to have her validation.
We waited for the shuttle, talking about whatever. It was all decent conversation by this point, as Sonia and I had acclimated to each other and started to get away from having to force conversation.
Once we had packed into the bus with all the other skiers and boarders, we were closer together than we had been all day. I looked at Sonia once or twice and thought, this would be a really good time to kiss if there weren’t a bunch of parents and kids around.
Though we had hoped to possibly take a couple more runs, we decide to call it a day when we were dropped back at the main lodge. I told her that I would rather get back to NYC a little earlier and get some food together. Sonia agreed that that sounded good.
I dropped off my rental equipment and we got changed out of our snow gear. Ahhhh, regular boots. The transformation into normal humans felt so good. We got some coffees from the little Starbucks they had shoved into the ski lodge and we walked back to her car. Sonia soon realized that she had forgotten her board outside the lodge, but a quick pit stop on our way out took care of that.
By the time we were nearly back to the highway, Sonia could tell that she would need more caffeine and a snack for the ride home, so we stopped at a Rite Aid. They had Fiji water for only 88 cents, which reminded me that we were no longer in NYC. We each got chips and a drink, then it was back on the road.
On the car ride back, we got to talking about a bunch of personality stuff and Sonia said that everything I’d told her about myself that day, she related to and felt similarly about, and that I had offered similar feedback about the things she’d said about herself. Once she called it out, I realized it was true. We were very alike. Very, very alike.
Sonia was simply the louder of the two of us. It was funny because I think we’d have looked very different from each other at first glance, but it was just that Sonia executed on things while I was reserved and only talked about eventualities. I wanted to be a louder version of myself, but I’d always held back. I talked about being more self-motivating and more outgoing and then I realized that so many of the things I’d said about myself that day were deficiencies of mine. They were all things that I was working on.
But that was kind of the point, maybe. I was doing this project and doing improv as ways to improve myself and become better at everything. These ventures were intended to amplify my voice, or at the very least, find it.
Improv was an all-encompassing life philosophy for me. Being able to apply improv stills to the real world was its own life skill. “Hell yeah,” Sonia agreed. A lot of my life was very much a work in progress at the time and Sonia said that it was really cool and that although we had just met, she was really proud of me for challenging myself the way I did. She thought more people should do that more often. For a few minutes, I felt proud of being constantly conflicted and not really knowing where my life was going.
Sonia asked what motivated me and it was another difficult question to answer. I didn’t have any of those bullshit answers like “God” or “the love of my family.” I felt perhaps motivated by some abstract sense of pride to be the best, or at least the best that I could be. I also didn’t want to let anyone down. It was all very socially oriented. I suppose I was motivated by approval. I think that was why I liked performing. I enjoyed rising to the occasion, so I tried to put myself in situations to do that. Without difficult situations, I’d have never done anything significant in my whole life.
Taking a page from her book, I told Sonia that I saw beauty in our snow-laden adventure. It was beautiful that she was out with me and that we’d connected over so many things. I was just an idiot from the internet, but she had given me a shot. It was really quite awesome.
Upon our return to Queens, we went to dinner at Fatty’s Cafe which was pretty close to my place. Sonia had to meet up with a friend of hers that night, so she could have been rushing to get rid of me, but it was nice that she took the time to have a meal. I knew I was making her late and I thanked her for it, but she told me that she wouldn’t have been there unless she wanted to be.
Sonia ate salmon. I ate pork tacos. A wave of fatigue came over her again and I didn’t blame her. It had been a long day.
She drove me to my front door and I said that saying goodbye in the car was always awkward because you had to lean over the center console. She said she would get out, so we both unbuckled and hopped out of the car. Sonia came around the car and we faced each other.
“Well, this was fun,” I said before I leaned in and kissed her. We smooched for a few minutes, there on the sidewalk in front of my building, and then Sonia got back in her car and took off, only 11 hours after she’d picked me up.