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Robert Altman Week

Saturday
Nov102012

« In Which We Were Not Expecting That »

At the Lodge

by KATE NURSAS

At the lodge it is something of a competition to act as playfully as we think we should feel.

"Do a cartwheel," Helga says. "But close your eyes first." Bob presses a napkin to his face and looks worried.

"It gives me vertigo," Jane's boyfriend says.

"You're only upside down for a second," Helga says.

"It feels a lot longer," he tells her. Everyone else is going down the mountain or up the mountain. The snow machines work overtime because it's unexpectly balmy for February.

"I'd like to see it," I say. Jane's boyfriend tosses his blonde hair back and resolutely takes a position. He pours the rest of his drink into a nearby plant and looks at each of us in turn. Before he does it, he says, "It's not just cartwheels. It's all gymnastics. But I'll try because you asked me."

He falls over, and I say, "Try to rest your eyes in the distance on something, an object not nearby."

Bob's "honestly not feeling well." I tell him I'm going to ski and he refuses to go back to his room. I ask him if he should be drinking. He shrugs and says, "I don't even know if it affects me anymore."

I get ready. He says, "I see Jane on the north slope. She's raising her arms."

"I want to get out there," I say. "Are you coming or not?" He steeples his fingers.

"No," he says, "you're right. I'm going to go upstairs and read The Silence of Lambs." He reclines back on the chaise and covers his eyes.

"Oh come on," I say. It's something about how his eyes are glancing over to the window.

"I don't want to hold you back," he says. I touch his knee and he gives a reaction halfway between a shudder and a convulsion. He sits up.

"Sorry," he says, "I wasn't expecting that."

Helga comes in with Jane, who wonders if we have seen her boyfriend. "No," I said, "and he's not much of a gymnast either." A solid woman in a bright smock serves us what I think is grenadine and vodka which we all sip out of straws. A person can hardly expect to ski in such conditions.

"How is it out there?" I ask Jane. "I saw you raising your arms."

"Sometimes I like the fake snow better," she says. "It makes me feel like my mind is generating the climate."

"Global warming is something we can all embrace," Helga says, taking off her jacket and doing an inspired rendition of the macarena.

Now that Jane's going back out, Bob can't feign illness any longer, if that's what he's doing. He's more competitive with her than anyone except her boyfriend. The blonde viking never joins her, and when we come in for dinner, he's nowhere to be found.

"Maybe he did have vertigo," Helga says. There's a nurse on duty with long brown hair and she tells us she gave a man fitting the description of Jane's boyfriend a tylenol and a ham sandwich. Under his breath Bob says, "That's service."

The next morning is our last at the lodge. We all want to go out together. In my jacket I find a little red rose and a note that says, "Come in before the others." I show it to Helga on the lift.

"It's not Bob," she says. "He told me he didn't want to hurt you again." I don't know why, but I laugh. Maybe it was because I was hearing something I already knew but had never consciously accepted.

"The rose is kind of crumpled."

Instead of going in first, I wait until everyone else is complaining that there is no drink service on the lifts. We start to lose the light, but it's something about me, probably. I find I never get cold. Jane is the second to last, and I admit I get great pleasure from watching her as well. She looks like a lion slipping through plain as she moves back and forth.

Helga's the first one to meet me. "Did you have fun?" she says.

"Yes," I told her.

"I figured out who it was," Helga says. "It was Jane's boyfriend. The rose wasn't fresh."

"So?"

"He must have put that in there yesterday. That's why he left. He felt rejected."

"When you write about this," I say, "Take pity on us all." She hands me a margarita.

Kate Nursas is a writer living in Chicago.

"Moi Quand Je Pleure" - Celine Dion (mp3)

"Qui Peut Vivre Mon Amour" - Celine Dion (mp3)

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