“You coming back next year?” Drew was wondering if we’d be friends again in a year. He was one of two guys I was friends with at Camp Lakeside. The other was my cousin, Nathaniel.

“I don’t know.” I did know: I wasn’t.

“Man, I hope you do.”

“Yeah, we’ll see what my mom says, I guess. ”

Eighteen year-olds in college have a hard enough time making friends in a year—camp is the condensed version. Don’t tell me that kids have an easier time making friends because their brains aren’t developed or they’re at a socially accepting time in their lives or they have small bodies.

At Lakeside, they assumed you’d make great friends by doing activities. The options were awesome: waterskiing, tubing, archery, horseback riding, and boating. You could also participate in dumb activities like performing arts, arts and crafts, and nature hikes. Looking back, the horseback riding belongs in the dumb activities category. “Careful, this horse is known to break into a trot! If she starts cantering, JUMP OFF!”

You sign up for these activities on the first day and you have a lot of fun doing those activities for the whole week, so it was important to choose wisely. I walked into the huge chapel packed with kids and I saw a white board with the options listed.

“All the early bird sign-ups are now welcome to choose their activities!”

As the voice came over the PA, a flood of kids ran to the white board. I get it: not everyone gets to do what they want here. Another life lesson brought to you by camp.

“All the students who signed up before March are now welcome to choose!”

Register for camp before March?! Forget it. If we kept going like this, I’d be hiking [walking] through the woods making origami [paper airplanes]. I was probably the last person to register for camp: summer would come, my mom would remember that she could send me somewhere for an extended period of time, and she’d talk to her sister.

Aunt Becky: Nathaniel is going to ________ camp this year.

Mom: Bart, wanna go to a camp?

Me: Sure.

Maybe it’s not over yet…If they call people to sign up in reverse-alphabetical order, I might be able to

“All campers with last names A-F are now welcome to sign up!” A third group bombarded the white board. I get it, Lakeside. I’m a T, in the last group with the losers and lepers who didn’t sign up for this charade nine years ago. I already hated camp.

“So you walk up there and you pick stuff you wanna do?” I tried to start a conversation with the guy next to me. “Yeah.” “What are you signing up for?” “Tubing, if it’s still there.”

A voice came over the PA system: “TUBING IS NOW ALL FILLED UP! THE REST OF YOU ARE LOSERS!” Groans filled the chapel from the 480 campers who couldn’t do the one thing they came to camp for. There should be asterisks next to every activity that a camp advertises:

We have tubing!*

*chances are, you won’t get to go tubing!

We have archery!*

*we had archery in the 80s!

Every camp I went to, people would say: “it was so much better last year.What was I doing last year?! I’m a year late for every camp! “Last year this camp played an R-rated movie.” “Last year this camp was co-ed.” “We used to be able to [insert awesome thing], but last year [some idiot] ruined it when [he shot an arrow through his foot].

By the time the T-Zeternity group went up, the good stuff was taken. No waterskiing, no archery, no boating. The woman confirmed my fear: “We’ll put you drama and arts and crafts!” I’m a twelve-year-old boy, lady. I don’t want to do drama or arts and crafts, I want to see explosions or shoot a bow or go too fast on something that I don’t have complete control over. I’m sure my disappointment was written on my face, because she said, “It’s a lot of fun!” Which is what people say when something is not a lot of fun.

There’s still capture the flag, free time, free swim, and all that other free stuff. Maybe I’ll make some friends, maybe I can salvage this. Also, maybe I can’t.

A kid named Chris had bleached hair. He gelled it and it looked freaking sweet. I hated this kid because he was a little asshole. And because I tried to bleach my hair with household bleach and it turned orange. And because I forgot my hair gel. And because he made out with girls at this camp, what a lose … But also, how did he do it? Maybe if I had store-bought hair bleach, I’d be making out with girls at camp, too. He was compared to Leonardo Dicaprio because he was pretty. He had soft features and brown, pouty-puppy eyes that made everyone feel sorry for him, like he was a lost Labrador in a sad-animals-Sarah-McLachlan-commercial.

I was kicking a soccer ball with some kids when Chris walked by with his sculpted bleached hair and two cute girls. Of course he was walking with TWO girls. Someone passed me the ball and I tried to show my skills by trapping it, which would make the girls want to kiss me, but I missed.

“Shoot! I just couldn’t get the ball in the hole!” I quoted Happy Gilmore, because quoting movies is how I make friends.

Chris overheard and said, “DO YOU HAVE THAT PROBLEM OFTEN?! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!”

He and the girls cackled like a pack of idiot jerks. I responded: “…Yes…I do have that problem often.” Admittedly, not my best comeback.

If ever I’ve wanted to go back in time and pound some faces to powder with my fists, it was Chris and those girls. “Actually, Chris, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? In what scenario would you be putting a ball in a hole? Are you trying to talk about sex? And a Testicle? BECAUSE I DON’T THINK THAT’S HOW IT WORKS! BUT IF THAT IS HOW IT WORKS, then, no, I don’t have that problem often because I’m not having a lot of sex as a FREAKING TWELVE YEAR-OLD! That would have been a great comeback.

I couldn’t let that episode with Chris get under my skin because it was performance night. While all the losers and idiots had been busy doing things like “having fun,” the drama kids had been rehearsing for the sophisticated theatre production that the whole camp would see. (They were forced to see it.)

Lady walks to the microphone: “Now the weird drama kids are going to do something for a couple minutes…let’s please be nice.”

The production was one person reading a story while we acted out the words. My debut was to run on stage, and when the narrator said, “He let out a whoop like a banshee and fell down,” I was supposed to fall down. So I fell down. And I laid on the stage until it was over. It was then that I knew I wanted to become an actor.

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    I read this while eating lunch at work and had to try very hard not to laugh food out of my nose. Thank you for making my day.

    Reply
    • Bart

      Annnd almost a month later, Thanks for telling me! (I once laughed rice out of my nose and it’s not a fun experience.)

      Reply

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