Hello Card  -  Volume 13  -  Suzanne Card Number 0  -  Sun, Mar 4, 1990 3:10 PM

I'm kind of embarrassed to admit that my life has been revolving around a man lately (same one as last issue - his name is Michael), and particularly one who will be leaving soon for travel to as yet unspecified places for an as yet unspecified length of time.

As I mentioned, he'd talked me into going snow camping with him near Mammoth and learning how to downhill ski, the idea of which has always terrified me. I considered there was an excellent chance that it was going to be the most miserable week of my life, considering myself as a person who hasn't missed blowdrying her hair in the morning for at least the last ten years.

So it was quite the experience. I tried not to panic (I should say I tried not to panic often): "What IS that NOISE? . . . Coyotes? Oh. Well, how nice . . . But why do they have to be so LOUD?"

We camped close to some hot springs, and someone had built this quasi-hot tub structure so that you could actually sit in there and relax, that is, if you were the kind of person who could ever relax, naked, in close to zero temperatures, with packs of coyotes lurking nearby in the darkness.

In retrospect, though, I have to admit I enjoyed it, soaking in that hot water with the steam rising like smoke and the tips of my hair frozen and those coyotes howling so ominously in the distance. It was all so incongruous somehow, I mean incongruous to anything I would ever do, although there I was.

Back at the tent, I'd thought we were alone in the middle of the snow-laden desert, just us and the far-away geese and coyotes, and then I woke up to the sound of a car stopping right outside our tent.

"They're just looking for the hot springs," Michael mumbled. "Go to sleep."

Then I woke up to the sound of a woman screaming. I woke Michael up again. "Do you hear that?" I whispered. "Good sex," Michael mumbled. "Go to sleep, all right?" The woman then burst into laughter, and beside me I could feel a smile cracking in the dark. I started wishing evil on that laughing woman in the hot springs. Nothing permanently damaging - I just wished the coyotes would emerge and encircle her, growling, as she tried to put her clothes back on.

Then I woke up again to voices in the distance, and a few minutes later there was the sound of hands sliding along the surface of our tent. Again, I shook Michael awake. Well, Mr. Semi-Perfect is certainly not the most patient person I've ever met. He sat up in the tent (too short to stand in).

"It's the WIND," he said. "IT'S JUST THE SOUND THE WIND MAKES BLOWING AGAINST THE TENT!" His tirade continued. He ended by calling me 'the queen of nervousness,' a comment which I don't intend to ever let him forget.

We were sleeping in this double bag designed for sub-zero weather, but I'll tell you it got damn cold in the bag that night with me sleeping as close to the edge of it as possible, determined to avoid touching any part of him. I decided I might as well use my awake time productively, so I laid there seething, formulating what I was going to say to him in the morning in my wrath and wondering if it might be possible for me to get to the nearest bus station on my own without any help at all from him.

He was up at sunrise, making breakfast and coffee, back to his usual, cheerful self. When I complained about being cold, he said we couldn't have that and brought the camp stove into the tent and left it there until the air was toasty warm, and kind of hovered over me, and he looked so incredibly handsome and he was smiling at me like this little kid who has no idea that the world around him wasn't just entirely benign, and I could tell he had no clue that I might be in any way whatsoever angry at him, and I just kind of melted a little. Not that I was going to completely forget about being angry with him, but there was no way that I was going to go searching for a bus station anymore.

It turned out that we didn't actually camp beyond that night, as a storm had been brewing, and new snow began to pellet the earth, and camping under those circumstances was too challenging even for Michael. So we went to Reno and stayed in motels. My idea of heaven. Showers, restaurants, thermostats.

Although I put off skiing for as long as possible (the last day), I actually didn't do too badly. Four dumps over the course of an entire day, and that was the coldest day of the year at Squaw Valley, skiing on ice. I think I've gotten stopping down, I just can't figure out how to negotiate a turn exactly.