Oh the People We Meet

One of my favorite classes back in undergrad was my creative writing course. This is a piece that ended up as part of my final portfolio at graduation. It’s a mix of reality and creativity, but it contains the essence of every summer I spent at camp.

 My eyes are burning. Why is it so bright? What is that sound? I can’t move, everything feels different.

*****

 Growing up, I spent every summer at camp. Every day was a new adventure, and every night was a different prank. Camp was my getaway. Back home there were seven siblings, five older than me. Home was where I never wanted to be. My parents worked hard and provided for us, so life was good. We had everything we needed and wanted.  But I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes “everything” wasn’t what I wished for. I longed to be seen.

*****

 I hear something, but I can’t place it. I know it’s early, I always wake up at six in the morning. 

*****

 Back home, school starts at seven, so my body is internally set to rise on time. For some reason, today, six feels odd. There are only four more days left of camp. I can’t believe the summer went by so fast. I’ll miss Jessie the most, who’d of thought we would end up being best friends?

 The first day of camp, six years ago, I walked into my cabin and there she was. Jessie was sitting on her bed crying. Not tiny tears, the kind of crying that makes your shoulders jump up and down and your throat makes that deep sucking noise when you try to breathe. I laughed at her – really loud. After all, I had a reputation to keep. 

 Jessie became my target. If I found her hovering in a corner, I’d call her out. When she was taking a shower I made sure to flush all five toilets. Somehow, she came through it. After two weeks she stopped crying, stood up straight, and flashed a smile as my friends and I tormented her. I remember thinking, who is this girl?

*****

 I don’t feel different. But then again, I haven’t moved. If I stay still no one will wake up. Ten extra minutes of sleep are precious these days.

*****

 Family isn’t a word I use too often. I write letters to my “real” friends from the summer and talk to them on the phone each week. School is okay, I typically only have one other sibling in the same building so I can achieve separation most of the time.

 When my mom dropped me off at the bus for camp in May she said, “no trouble this year, Chenon.” I smirked and ran to the bus. Me, trouble? Well, how else am I supposed to get their attention? But I don’t get into trouble.  I just have fun. Since when did fun become a crime?

*****

 I don’t hear anyone else yet, just that sound. It is familiar, but not to the cabin, and certainly not to this time of day in the cabin. I’ll just lay here a bit longer; someone is bound to get up soon. 

 I wonder what we’ll do for evening program tonight. Last night was amazing, I’ll never forget it. Wait . . . is that water?

*****

 Last year for my speech class I did a presentation on summer camp. It was the best day of the school year because I got to talk about my favorite time of year. I also learned that Shane, the hottest guy in my class, goes to camp too. I wonder what he does at camp. He said his parents send him to Texas for five weeks each summer. 

 I remember the first time I went to camp. I was six and scared. There were so many kids, some older than me. I unpacked, made my bed, and went for a walk. Before I knew it, I was surrounded by kids introducing themselves and giving me a tour. For once, people were flocking around me. I had no idea what was going to happen, but I was ready to go with it.

 That summer went on to mark fantastic beginnings. I made hundreds of friends, realized I could live without my mommy, and learned that I could be somebody. I had no idea that I’d be the somebody I am right now. Everyone knows my name, they run to my table at meals, and I’m always first picked for relay races. Maybe school could be like that this year, but I won’t hold my breath.

*****

 I don’t sleep near the bathroom, and the lake is on the other side of camp. It can’t be water. I’ve been coming to this camp for 12 years and I’m sure . . . oh wait, it could be raining. No, I checked the weather. I’m supposed to take my cabin on an all-day hike today, so I made sure we would be prepared. The radio said no chance of rain, pure sunshine. 

 I guess it’s time to get moving, the girls will be up soon. Wait, I can’t move, what is going on? Why am I outside? Oh no! They got me! But how did they get me and my bed on a floating dock? And how do I get free?

*****

 I’ve learned a lot over the years. Coming to camp helped me learn who I was and who I am capable of becoming. That summer I met Jessie was the year I figured out that being mean doesn’t make you a winner and it won’t always make your popular. Most importantly, I learned that best friends come in all shapes and sizes. Jessie turned out to be the coolest person I’ve ever known.

*****

 Help! Somebody help! 

 I have to pee. Wait, is that a box of tissues? Well, well, well. Jessie strikes again. Every time she pranks me, she leaves a box of tissues. As a reminder of what I didn’t give her on the day we met.  Here come the campers, it must be time for breakfast. I guess I’m on display. 

 Payback for years of pranks has finally come full circle. I love summer camp.

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