Everyday is a sled going downhill. The banks are snowy and I am snowy and we are proverbially GOING DOWNHILL.
We meet up at the hill around midnight when the children are gone, and we drink, drink, smoke, until we can’t feel our faces anymore. We’re too old for this, says Cassie, as she jumps on a cardboard pizza box. She applied to med school but the rest of us have no idea what we’re doing. Does anyone ever know what they’re doing?
There are always new faces coming and going, some of them bruised, much to Cassie’s delight. Deepha is newest to the country, so new to the climate, never went frolicking around like this before. We egg him on because he says he wants to stay on the sidelines, continuing to drink his whisky, watching like a virgin. He says his mother told him tobogganing is the dumbest thing in the world, obviously a hazard, asking for someone to get hurt. Cassie laughs and says he should just try it once, besides it’s not like there’s anything else to do around here.
The hill itself is called “Suicide,” nicknamed by everyone in this town. Even my parents call it that, nonchalantly, without implication. I don’t know what the original name was or what it could have been, or if it even had one to begin with. It was probably something like Riverside Park? Or is this even a public place at all? Could it just be the Riverside Water Treatment Plant?
I always liked the way Deepha carried himself — his father being an engineer, intelligent and stand-tall. His father is supposed to come back from Dubai next weekend, says he wants us to come over cause he bought us “colorful t-shirts.” He must have been put off by our always wearing black.
Deepha finally gets on the toboggan, the only manufactured sled that someone brought (probably Jaime.) He takes a deep breath and we all cheer for him, sloppily, raising liquor to the moon. He smiles around, waving his hand coolly, like he doesn’t actually want us to pay attention.
Sam pushes him from the back and it’s funny to see because Sam’s so small that he crumples under Deepha’s weight. With a considerable amount of force on his behalf, Deepha takes flight, the image of him riding on a sled slowly shrinking as he descends, the ground glistening in a straight sheen of ice.
We watch without words, a symphony of awkward anticipatory laughter, and when we watch Deepha’s body veering off to the left the laughter sort of subsides, and then Deepha’s body tumbles horizontal and then we watch his head bounce off the ice.
Sam runs down the hill, sliding mostly, a throaty call of panic lifting from his diaphragm. Cassie is the next one behind Sam.
Blood blossoms across the bridge of Deepha’s nose, his glasses are broken and he’s not waking up. It sounds like he’s trying to say something, moaning with his tongue lazily lifting up and down. Sam looks scared. He starts shouting, “DEEPHA WAKE UP.” Sam lost his dad in September. Heart attack. No one expected it.
Cassie slowly pushes Deepha’s body into prone position, holding him in her arms, gently whispering into his ear, motivating consciousness in its familiar tone of softness. After about a minute of this, Deepha’s eyes flutter and he is revealed to the world again. He looks around like a baby, mouth agape, reconfiguring his state of being. Sam jolts with enthusiasm, looking overwhelmed with relief, like he could cry.
I look back at the others, at Jaime and Nina and Darryl- they’re closer to my range of witness. Jaime is biting his lip with his eyebrows totally suspended in what seems like amusement and I can’t help but smile too, knowing the seriousness of what had been avoided/ the irony of the immigrant coming to this Northern nightmare/ the tarnishing of the word “toboggan” forever, for Deepha, probably.
“I broke my fucking glasses,” he says.
Cassie strokes his spine and tries to console him. “Your medical insurance will take care of it, I’m sure.”