Let’s give space to our stories
Summer was intoxicating – the days hot enough to steal the breath from your lungs, the nights shrill with the voices of crickets. Summer camp was a pocket of suspended time that I could return to every June, shedding my lessons and burdens. I could be young in a way I was not permitted to during the year – I slaved over homework for ten months for this freedom of two, and I was determined not to squander a second.
When I was eleven, I had my first kiss. I didn’t have a crush on him; I was extremely flattered when he asked me to the camp dance. He was very nice. It made me feel guilty. Also, we were eleven. We didn’t last long.
When I was thirteen, I listened to the other girls giggling over the cute boys in middle camp and I decided I wouldn’t be left out. I singled out a boy and sat next to him every chance I got during camp assemblies. The last day of camp, I said goodbye to him as he waited for his bus to arrive. My counselor nudged me. “Come on,” she whispered, “Did you really do all you needed to do?”
That was my second kiss.
My final year at summer camp would be bittersweet, I believed. I wanted to cram every memory I could into every waking moment, but most of my friends preferred to sit and chat on the porch.
She wasn’t new to camp. She was new to me, though. I had seen her before, caught glimpses of her in the dining hall, or on the shores by the lake, reading. It was her last year too, and I was determined to pull her out of her shell. So I coaxed her into canoeing, and she invited me to the art building when it rained. She accompanied me to the stables, and I watched her practice for the end-of-camp circus show. It struck me when I was watching her there, gracing the air with her defiance of gravity – I really, really liked her. For a moment I couldn’t breathe. I have a hearty dislike for cliches, but there it was – she took my breath away.
The last night of camp, neither of us wanted to sleep. At four A.M., she called me onto the porch to watch a skunk make its slow, meandering way across the grass. Now or never, I said to myself, and I told her, “You’re beautiful. And kind. I really like you.”
“Cool,” she said, “I like you too.”
I was trembling. “I really like you. You know? Do you know, I mean, I…”
She shifted in the dark. I thought she didn’t understand. I thought I would crumble.
“…Yeah,” she finally said, “I like you too. I think we’re a good match.”
If I could say to my younger self anything, it would be this: the world will not end all at once. A moment can last you a lifetime, but it shouldn’t. She is a girl, and she is just as human as you. Ask her, once and for all, if she understands how much of your heart she holds in her hands. These are the things I would tell my past self, if I could. But I can’t. But I can tell myself now.
😛 New York, NY, USA
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Thanks so much for sharing! Beautiful story.