"did santa bring you skis for Christmas?"
this was nick's question for me this morning at 5:45.
I grinned at him, shaking my head, and said, "not this year . . . "
it was the first time I'd seen nick in two weeks, and I had approached him in the weight room to thank him for the chocolates he sent me for Christmas. his eyes twinkled as he asked about the skis, and mine sparkled back as I replied in the negative.
he may have had a heart attack if I'd said yes, but he would have been excited, too, as he is determined to get me up on the slopes.
I first met nick about 14 months ago, when my children's school schedules and the bitter cold mornings kicked me off my bike and sent me to the jcc weight room. throughout last fall and winter I went 4 days a week, arriving at 5 am and leaving at 6. after the first week or so I was familiar with the other regulars, and began introducing myself to a couple of them. bunny first, as she always smiled at me. and then nick.
nick and I often left about the same time, and one day we were walking up the stairs on the way out when I said, I should introduce myself, since we're always here at the same time. I'm susan.
I'm nick, he said, his voice drenched in a european accent.
and that was the beginning of my relationship with cute nick from switzerland.
he often wears a red tee shirt with a big white cross on it, and he loves to ski. he mangles his english still, and searches for words that sometimes come and sometimes do not. his hair is a beautiful whitish-gray, and his neat mustache adds a dash of virility to his handsome face.
last Christmas nick made me a chocolate yule log, decorated with fresh holly sprigs. for valentine's day and easter he sent me chocolates from a swiss confiserie here in the states, owned by some friends of his. this Christmas I received another package from Andre's: an exquisite chocolate pinecone, which opens to reveal a collection of swiss chocolates, each of which is a blossom of flavor. the "pinecone" itself is two molded sections of chocolate, intricately designed to look like the layers that form a real pinecone, snugly wrapped in the thinnest layer of red foil.
I know that nick is married---I actually met his wife last election day at our mutual voting location---and that he has a daughter who died of cancer 11 years ago. she would be 38 were she still living. perhaps I remind him of her, in some small way.
nick walks with a slight swagger, his eyes absorbing every detail around him. he works hard, and he rests between sets, his brow damp. he asks me how my children are, he asks when I'll go to alta with him. he asks me about lotoja, if I really rode the entire 206 miles. he tells me that I could ride across the entire country of switzerland in that many miles.
this morning he drew me an imaginary map: I could start in the northeast corner, by the lake where he was born, and head down to the southwest corner. it wouldn't be too challenging, he says, until I approach lake geneva.
perhaps I will, one day, ride my bike across switzerland.
a girl's got to have goals, doesn't she?