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Sunday, October 11, 2009

notes on camp

we were somewhere in the bay area hills, tucked away from all the traffic and bridges and parents. I'd just turned 10 and was on my first overnight summer camp. i remember drinking endless cups of soda, soccer games on fields huge and green, and i remember making a kite and tying it with red yarn to my finger and i remember voices around a small fire, the smell of burning wood, the rawness of dawn, playing paddle ball with a girl with short blond hair, silver dust caught in clothes, a pool with two intertubes drifting along a corrugated surface.

but it's the last night i remember most. we'd begged our counselors to let us sleep outside the cabin, to let us take our sleeping bags out to a clearing just above camp. impossibly, they agreed. and so i lay on my back, in a field full of bodies, all of us silent and awake, the night air cool against our cheeks, clouds low and thickening in grey tufts, wandering overhead, backlit by stars too many to count.

i must have stayed up nearly the entire night. just watching the black dome above me, a single satellite hurtling somewhere, stars suggesting some faint form, some silhouette i recognized but couldn't quite name.

i heard everyone around me breathing in slow, even tones, asleep now against pillows damp and aglow under the moon. i turned on my flashlight and beamed it overhead. trying to add one more star to the sky. hours passed, entire universes appeared and scattered and appeared. my light somewhere among the riot.

and now, two decades later, i so badly want that night to be with me still.

because there are moments when i want to know what i was saying. my light caught something up there. i don't know what, but something. i need to know what it heard, what message i'd blown across stars, what story i tried to share.

whatever it was i knew then, i've lost. the only mark i've ever made was streaked into the sky that night.

while it stays alive, i'm alive.

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