Art by Heather Ramsey
The first time I saw Marnie naked she was lying on her back in an ambulance while two paramedics cut her yellow Burton shell off her torso. The zipper must’ve been caught on the fabric. The medical boys sliced her jacket and all the fleece underlayers right up the middle with a razor-sharp scissors as if she were a fish. They needed to get to her heart. Didn’t we all? I stood a few feet from the sliding door of the ambulance in full ski gear, gawking, mouth open, the ultimate perv. Red ski patrolmen floated by, big white crosses on their backs. They nodded at me and turned away.
Marnie had huge amazing tits, bone white, with nipples as pink and ripe as guava pulp. It was the only time in my sex-crazed life that I stared at a naked girl and wanted to look away. We weren’t together or anything, just pals, both obsessed with mountains and snow. We probably skied together 25 days a year, hiked, played softball in the summer with a gang of friends, drank beer, ran into each other at art openings. She liked to throw parties. She had a back yard with lots of trees and places to sit. Maybe we were like brother and sister; at least she treated me like that. I was the advice guy, giving her counsel on books, and sexual strategy for boys she lusted after — and now I was freaking out on this rad view of her body, clothes peeled back, revealing the blinding treasure within.
No one told me to move. I wasn’t Joe Sleazoid violating an injured woman’s privacy. I was an indeterminate blob, a confused idiot watching his friend be manhandled by rescue guys. I was going to report all this shit back to her. Tell her that boys handsomer than Jonny Moseley — who knows what they looked like, I just knew that’s what I was going to say — were rifling through her privates.
Marnie was the best female athlete I’d ever known: strong, fearless, stubborn, smart, prickly, generous, humble, freckly and flirty. She’d stand in the middle of the room in a tight thermal shirt, squeeze her boobs like a stripper and say how much she loved them.
We met at CalArts, in the grad program. One night after a screening of some Belgian art films a pack of us went out to Canter’s for liquor and matzo-ball soup. Marnie and I were both wearing the same Air Jordans. We started talking about sports, a giant relief from art babble, and within an hour we had more than one ski trip planned. She made tons of badass sculptures and photographs. I painted sexually deprived robots with pitiful captions about tenderness.
I expected her to wake up any second. I was all set to get in her face about how rad her crash was as soon as her eyes fluttered open. Our tumbles were never embarrassing, they were spectacular Indy 500 car wrecks — loud football grunts, huge explosions of snow, multiple somersaults, skis and poles twirling in orbit. But this fall of Marnie’s wasn’t like our usual crowd-pleasing highlights.
That morning we’d assembled our all-important turkey sandwiches with Cheddar and avocado and four kinds of mustard, prepared on the floor of our tiny motel room. The sandwiches hung from a tree in a plastic Vons bag, as per usual, but this time would never be eaten by us.
At 1 p.m., minutes before our feeding, we were on a short, steep run that we pet-named Satan’s Maw, a sexy funnel of snow, like a 400-foot tongue with superjagged rocks on both sides for teeth. I skied down first — the scout, the hog. The snow was ice-rink slick on the sides, soft and carvey in the middle. It had rained for two solid days, and then it froze up, and snowed a few inches overnight. The conditions couldn’t’ve been schizier. But when I got to the bottom, breathing hard, I was euphoric and psyched, blood pumping in delirium. Every little jump-turn, clean and sweet. The perfect run before lunch. Marnie traversed into the good snow, made a right turn and inched her way over to the ice. I don’t think she realized how slick it was. We hadn’t really talked about it. What began as an innocuous little slip of the skis — losing her footing at the top, tipping over onto her hip, sliding for two seconds until a tree stump knocked her downhill ski off — became something much worse. She continued to slide, accelerated, the other ski popped off, and from there she jetted straight into a huge pile of rocks, somersaulted over a small cliff, her body thrown back onto the snow where she torpedoed right past me, headfirst, a limp rag doll, until a small grove of baby fir trees stopped her on a dime. An ugly crash. The worst I’d ever seen in person. I skidded down to her. She was flat on her back, her legs twisted up at the base of a tree, one hand on her stomach, the other behind her ear. Her yellow shell was up over her head. I clicked out of my skis, jammed them into the snow, and kneeled beside her. I unzipped the top of her jacket. She was snoring. I stupidly thought, good, sleep is a good thing.