| the cast |
jordan: eccentric handicraft director; the kindest, most helpful person at camp; doesn’t believe that birds are real.
kaitlyn: assistant trailblazers director; struggling with being in love with the wrong person; my camp mom for the past two years.
michael: handicraft instructor; wears a cowboy hat; has the exact same laugh as me.
mary: health officer; looks just like me; always has popsicles hidden in her freezer.
you: CIT; has the loveliest brown eyes; awful at goodbyes.
i came home from the fourth week of camp & wrote in my journal, i knew this week would be the worst & it absolutely has been.
the thing about camp is that when one person gets sick, the whole staff has it by the end of the week. & when one bad thing happens, it is sure to be followed by something else tragic & infinitely worse.
the first bad thing: jordan got bronchitis & had to go to the hospital. the second bad thing: as assistant director, i was put in charge of handicraft while he was gone. i had to go to meetings & deal with fuming scout masters who wouldn’t listen to me because i am a girl & 5’2″, & then there was that incident with the applesauce. the third bad thing: the other staffers kept asking if you were coming back, & kaitlyn pointed out a young scout that looked just like you. after that, i wore the red bolo you gave me every evening for the rest of the summer. it was my one reminder of you that didn’t hurt.
the really tragic, infinitely worse thing: i got sick in the middle of the week & the awful thing happened while the health officer was checking on me in my cabin. i was in a sports bra, hair stuck to my skin from the fever, with mary kneeling beside my bunk. someone else needed her right then & it was my fault that she couldn’t be there to stop it. it’s been five months already, but sometimes the guilt still knocks me over like a sucker punch.
they told us that it was sensitive information, that no one else needed to know about it. i still haven’t told my mother. but there was an ambulance that everyone thought was for me. there was a sweet little boy who didn’t understand what he’d seen. when i cried about it later, it was because of that boy. there’s this pit in my stomach when i think about him growing up & realizing what he had witnessed.
i came home from the fifth week of camp & wrote, i am so very confused.
because that’s what the week was all about, right? being confused. rumors & conversations with hidden meanings & little hearts doodled on bare legs.
the teal car parked in front of the health lodge. lighters left as gifts. engraved tomahawks. a sword tattoo. nine years apart. these were things i paid attention to in the middle of july when i was lonely.
he said, you’re trouble, but just for me. he said, you look like an angel on the outside, but you’re definitely not on the inside. he said, i think you’re going to get me fired.
we went on walks together at night, wandering through the bike trails without a flashlight. he called me angel.
that week was the one year anniversary of the worst day of my life. i’d been dreading it all summer, & even though i knew it was coming, i still cried at the campfire. i put my head between my knees & sobbed in front of everyone, because oh god, when is it going to stop hurting? when will i stop remembering how it felt when the world ended? i couldn’t breathe. i can’t forget.
it’s been a year & everyone still hates me, i told kaitlyn while we watched the flames dance. i don’t understand why they let me go home. i didn’t understand a year ago, & i didn’t understand then, & i don’t think i ever will.
kaitlyn & mary made me stay in the health lodge that evening. i kept ending up there with wounds of the heart, not something that could be fixed with an alcohol wipe & a band-aid.
i came home from the sixth week of camp & wrote in my journal, i learned how to shotgun a drink. it made me pass out.
my last week was filled with art & anxiety. i remember sitting in the handicraft pavilion at one in the morning, painting in my pajamas. that white van shuddered up the gravel road, coming to stop when the driver saw the lights were on. hey, angel, he said when he got out & came to sit on one of my acrylic-covered benches. he told me that his head was messed up.
you’re the cutest person at camp, he said. i would date you if you were eighteen.
nine years, i thought, & i was afraid.
i wished that i wasn’t wearing my ex’s shirt. i wished that i had just showered & gone to bed instead of deciding to paint. i wished that i would stop finding myself in situations like this. everything felt like déjà vu that summer.
i think i almost cried from relief when jordan showed up with his friends. then someone cut their finger on a pocket knife, & there was blood all over the concrete floor, & the taste of it filled my mouth again. when i cried then, it was because of the bad memories from last summer, by the lake with michael. how it’s always my fault when someone goes to the hospital; how the year-old bloodstains still haven’t washed out of my yellow shirt.
but there was one last good thing in store for me, & i have never been closer to singing praises than the day i saw you again. you still had all your gear with you when you showed up at my pavilion out of the blue, which made me think that you hiked straight from your car to me. straight from my memories to being by my side again.
it was friday evening. we were getting ready for the last closing campfire of the season. your return made the end of summer more sweet than bitter.
we ate a whole apple pie together in the health lodge. we laid in the grass during the campfire, listening to the drums. we shared your hammock later & i told you everything that i hadn’t been able to explain over the phone, & it took until morning.
you are awful at goodbyes & i am terrible at letting go. i think we were made for each other.
here are the songs that hold my memories of the past two summers:
august love // grayscale
shut up and dance // WALK THE MOON
i know // motherfolk
always summer // yellowcard
mamma mia // ABBA
ocean avenue // yellowcard
letter from last summer // charlie burg
summertime // my chemical romance
there’s a place // the all-american rejects
the longest time // billy joel
summer nights // grease the musical
our last summer // mamma mia! the musical