Don’t ask me why I decided to wear a cowboy hat on the bus. I was a 13 year-old kid who had spent his entire life living in Los Angeles. Â My parents told me that I had been on a plane once, but I was six months old and the trip was to San Francisco. Planes were something that I saw flying overhead or when I passed by an airport. We were an ordinary middle class family who lived in the San Fernando Valley in a modest home. If you know the area you’ll understand that I kid around and say that living north of the boulevard meant we were in the ghetto.
I sat next to my friend Craig on the bus. Craig was dressed in his normal surfer attire, pair of Vans, Puka shell necklace and O.P. shorts. We shared his walkman and listened to The Clash sing “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” Who knew that song would foreshadow my feelings about the overnight camp we were on our way to. My parents had talked about sending me for years but it didn’t happen until that summer. It meant four glorious weeks without parents or my pesky sisters around to bother me. It never occurred to me that it would be hard at times or that I would miss my family. Never thought that the stupid hat on my head would mark me as a target.
They called me Okie, Redneck, Hick and a few other things. I didn’t know what to make of it. They were all supposed to be my friends, or so I had envisioned. It didn’t help matters that I was the last boy to reach our tent and as such got stuck with the bed in the middle. They loved to stick it in the rafters. In many ways I was an easy mark. If you messed with me I would mess right back with you. I didn’t always recognize the difference between friendly and mean teasing. Poke me and I would give you a reaction.
I remember complaining to Craig about it. Most of the time he was cool but I remember that he said that sometimes I acted like an asshole. I didn’t understand what I was doing to make him or anyone else think that.
It didn’t help that my hormones were raging. Those 13 year-old girls made my head spin. They often moved in packs. Sometimes groups of them would ask me questions and then laugh at whatever I said. I couldn’t figure out if I was funny or had something in my teeth. Not to mention that I couldn’t stop staring at them. I can’t tell you exactly when I noticed girls and decided that I was interested in learning more but I know that summer it was in full effect.
About ten days into the session something woke me up. I felt someone standing next to me and poking me. When I opened my eyes I saw it was Ricky. He slept across from me. He was naked and holding his little friend in his hand. I had no idea if that was what he poked me with but I snapped. I simply lost it.
Jumped out of bed screaming and chased him outside. He was completely naked and I was clad in shorts and wielding the broom we used to sweep the floors. A group of counselors were standing in the middle of the boys tents. When they saw me chasing Ricky they immediately got between us. Just before two counselors tackled me I took the broom and threw it like a javelin. It glanced off Ricky’s leg. From my position on the ground I heard laughter and started swinging. I landed two solid shots on a 17 year-old counselor and freed myself.
Ricky was still naked and laughing- or at least until he saw me break free.
In a few months it will be 29 years since that summer. The same summer that I made some of the best friends of my life. We have watched each other grow up. Been to weddings, and funerals together. There are more than a few kids that have been born, some of whom are already sick of the camp/college/Europe/Israel/New Years Eve stories.
Part of that time was simply awful, but it was worth it.
This was another prompt from The Red Dress Club.
This week’s RemembeRED prompt was to write about a time something seemingly terrible happened, but looking back, it brought something wonderful.
Links to Past TRDC posts:
- Wind and Waves
- A Detour
- The Day Joy Left My Life
- Preserve Your Memories
- The Flying Clown
- The Kitchen
- One Slightly Used Pump For Sale
- The Song of My Heart Has Gone Silent
- Five Minutes
- Endless Blue Skies
- And then the world shifted
- I Hear Music
- A Fire In The Sky
- The Telephone Call
- She Wore A Red Dress
- Song Sung Blueâ€¦And Other Colors