We planned a ski trip to a fashionable resort, joining a group of friends from my sister’s sports club. I promised Marianne a private ski lesson, as she had only been to the slopes a few times before. It was the early 90’s, and I hadn’t seen Marianne in over two years. Our residency programs kept us busy and free time was spent with family. Marianne had made my medical school years bearable, even fun. Brilliant, confident, and beautiful, I aspired to be just like her. I talked about the trip, she said she would join us. Weeks later, she called and said, ” I have something I want to talk to you about on the trip.” Why not now, I said. “It has to be in person.” sounding severe. On each phone call leading up to the trip, I would ask what she wanted to talk about, and each time she would say, ” It has to be in-person.” Even after greeting all of my sister’s friends in the Colorado chalet, getting comfortable in our appointed rooms, she avoided the conversation. “Let’s talk on the slopes,” she said. The night before skiing, I couldn’t sleep. Repetitive thoughts kept me awake. Was it her new boyfriend, Andre? Her parents disapproved. They never approved of anyone. Had she been diagnosed with a terminal illness? She appeared healthy? What was I missing?
As the ski lift took us higher and higher into the air, as the blue sky and the sun peeked through the clouds, my anxiousness mounted. What was it? In medical school, we confided with each other about everything. She was my person.
I pushed, “Marianne, please, tell me what is going on? Are you sick?”
“No,” she said. ” I’m healthy. It’s Andre”.
I knew it. “Your parents disapprove because he is white? Right?”
“No, my parents have never met him, ” She continued, “I wanted to let you know that Andre is actually Adrienne!”
Her words hung in the cold, dry air. I just stared at her. She said slowly, making eye contact with me, as I was obviously stunned. “Her name is Adrienne, and … I’m gay.”
As her words hung in the air, I actually felt my body shrink into itself while my thoughts raced to question myself silently over and over. What did she say? What do I say next? What am I supposed to say? What do I do?
She began to recall how she and Adrienne had met. How she had kept this secret from me for so long and why. How her parents would never approve. That she had kept the secret to keep her career in medicine.
She interrupted my thoughts, ” Stacie… Stace, are you listening to me?” Suddenly, jolted out of my thoughts, I yelled, ” Oh Thank God,… I thought you had cancer!”