Barbarism


Camp
August 10, 2010, 4:12 am
Filed under: REBECCA | Tags: , ,

At camp we had Store. At Store you could buy yogurt-covered pretzels, stamps, songbooks and other stuff—like those thick, preservative-tasting crackers in the shapes of hollow logs that were stuffed with American cheese. As soon as dinner was over we ran out of the lodge and up through winding mud paths and tricky inclines full of tree roots to Store. Sometimes, I remember, the only male instructor worked there, which made it extra exciting. The early evening sky was a welt-like blue-purplish color; there was that buzzing feeling in my knees—prickly, titillating, cold, anxious, excited. Sex without sex, freedom, fear, competition. We ran from the lodge to Store between tree trunks, interrupted intimate conversations and up through dark, densely forested Homestead Village (where the oldest girls lived; ages 14-15). We were good-natured and serious young adults, I think, and the weather was never perfect; the summer was always a bit cold and crisp and always made me want to run and have people applaud me, boys to like me walking around in my sports bra and red Victoria’s Secret mail-order shorts.

People were sometimes gruff, loud, having fun without me but there was a big sense of something brewing, constantly boiling, never-ending desire and laughing and wanting, provenance-mysterious, wildly arousing, fear before and disappointment during Socials, the only times the Girls’ Camp interacted with the Boys’ Camp. I hated going over there. I didn’t want to be teased but I had fantasies that I’d find someone nice and mischievous. But back to the girls… once we took a wrong turn and hiked too long; we all cried but felt strong and together; we pilfered tampons from the older girls’ cabin (Coeur d’Alene, when they were on trip) and put them under water and flung them around; Keri found hair bleacher and told me about having dark arm hair. Once I found nearly-drunk beer bottles at an abandoned campsite and swigged one just to prove how brave I was… and was happy when my friends gasped and gawped at me admiringly.

In the lodge at breakfast there were always two big, rusted tin vats—one containing cream of wheat; the other oatmeal, and three small ramekins of brown sugar, white sugar and raisins. We went to the Hootenanny–held at Boys’ Camp–every year on July 4th. When I was 10 we performed. When I was maybe 13, I recall lying on Laura’s lap while some band of 14-year-olds played something by Sublime probably and she cried because it reminded her of a friend who committed suicide? At 12, we traveled up to Duluth. There was a big ship in the harbor. Everything was quaint and dreary, grey, blue and clean. It was gorgeous and creepy and just made me want to FUCK EVERYONE. But there was no one! And I was 12! On Adventure Days, we went to empty parks and cold beaches. I remember swinging alone on the playground and feeling full of zest! Everyone was reading women’s magazines, making sandwiches. Jo’s dad worked with Leonardo Dicaprio; people had boyfriends; we had strip contests when the counselors were out. The world was exciting! I wanted to be a part of it! Our camp consisted of separate little villages of old, little cabins strewn on dark, windy greenery broken up by lakes and campfire rings, abandoned light grey sweatshirts and young adult novels, contraband candy (Skittles and Kitkats… the cool parents brought up big Sam’s Club plastic-wrapped packs for their daughters and their daughters’ friends on Parents’ Weekend even though Carol, the Girls’ Camp director, disallowed it.)…

It was low-lit, scary and mystical-in-a-controlled-way outside; inside, the cabins were raucous with huge amounts of girls, as lithe as I wanted to be; as bendable. Talking about music and people I didn’t know but wanted to—aggressive and strong with shiny, stringy blonde hair and big bodies. Or quiet, brunette, dreamy in quiet cabins, rocking on Crazy Creeks, solemn and sacred. Most were from the Chicago suburbs, but few were from local rural Minnesota or Beverly Hills or upper-class Idaho, suburban Missouri, Queens. I wanted to be all of them. I wanted them to take me in, be my older sisters, equals, mothers, friends, to present me like a debutante at a cotillion to lots of boys who would be just like the girls in that they’d play with me and not tease me, but additionally have sex with me and love me. We all cried together at Council Fire and I never felt closer to anyone. Most nights after dinner was over, we all ran to Store through nauseous, acidic, orgasmic summer air, wearing thick socks with Tevas, glasses and fuzzy, messy, tangled hair, perfect skin. I have gauzy sensory memories of desire, safety, nonstop admiration and giddy, taboo, secret-society fun, feeling newly capable and potent and connected. My whole camp experience, as I remember it, feels like the shivers on the cusp of orgasm.

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