THIS IS A REPEAT AFTER ME SONG
we sit in a circle. we tell each other our deepest regrets.
& i am always imagining my life like it is a movie especially during the hard parts.
[INT. FIRE PLACE ROOM. fire is not lit and a mural is half painted on the wall. a circle of teenagers sit on the floor next to folding chairs. they are talking quietly.]
at different times in the day we try to make the fireplace room prettier with paint. tonight we make it ugly with secrets & then something else with forgiveness. we started tonight sitting on the chairs but as the regrets got heavier so did we & we needed to be on the ground. on the cement. that puts us closer to the earth, something i never thought i wanted. thinking rarely has anything to do with devotion.
every night we practice devotion. every night it gets more intense because we are not campers anymore. this is part of the transition.
devotion is supposed to be a god thing, but i’ve never seen it practiced that way. it used to be a sharing thing but now it’s a trust thing. we call it devo. we are becoming counselors & in order to become counselors we have to learn trust.
[CUT to EXT CHAPEL. it is not a normal chapel because it is outside & we never talk about god inside of it. two hundred campers sit on the benches that look out over LAKE ECHO & they look at the counselors who look at them.]
before anyone can have fun at camp they have to learn the rules.
always have a buddy. remember to bring your water bottle with you everywhere. if you didn’t leave your cell phones at home, drop them into this bag now. no purpling or hot pinking or navy bluing, just don’t touch anyone in any way that could be possibly be perceived as sexual. always walk on the paths to prevent erosion. stop leaving graffiti all over the bathroom and the old cabins. do not, do not, do not go to the lake front when there’s no life guard present.
[CUT. a cabin with wood floors and bunk beds all around the walls with pink and purple and green and blue sheets and mismatched sleeping bags. ten girls and two counselors are sitting in a circle like the one from before. they look more bored than nervous. a few of them are making friendship bracelets while everyone is talking.]
we tell our campers to give us the reverse oreo of their day— one high point, one low point, one high point— devo lite. sarah talks about flirting with jeff & we shake our heads like, no purpling sarah. please. we are begging you. she is going to kiss boys & touch boys & there is no stopping her but it is our job to try. even though we have had our own private displays of affection in these woods. this is not about us anymore; we are grown.
camp is about innocence until you become a counselor & then it is about protecting.
the low point is always something like falling off a sail boat or getting made fun of by english dave.
[CUT BACK to fire place room.]
we are 16 & sometimes when we close our eyes very tight all we see are each other’s faces because this is what knowing a group of people feels like. this is what loving a group more than the individuals feels like. like, even the people i grew to hate have a sort of shininess in this memory because they are a part of a home i built inside my veins.
i eat these memories for breakfast.
& tonight, we breathe tears. we are all pulling back scabs we didn’t plan on. i am holding my best friend’s hand & wiping our tears on my sweater. my sweater says CAMP PINEWOOD.
[ZOOM in on those letters & rearrange them into the title of this essay.]
[CUT to me on the dock hugging my parents goodbye like that scene with lindsay lohan and her butler in the parent trap. CUT to meryl & me learning the handshake from the parent trap. CUT to all of us being twelve & lifting mattresses onto the roof like lindsay lohan & her friends did to lindsay lohan & her friends in the 1998 version of the parent trap.]
[CUT to two hundred kids & counselors singing “hey hey hey, goodbye” as four counselors get pushed off the dock into lake echo. when i become a part of this, a part of being pushed, a part of pushing, the song starts to give a kind of life. we fight against the pushers but we will never win. not in one hundred CUTS.]
i don’t have a deepest regret & this is quickly becoming a problem. i am trying to think of all of the worst things i have ever done. i have cheated plenty of times on math quizzes but once i got caught copying a homework assignment & i have never felt as bad. but what i regret is getting caught & if i had gotten away with it there wouldn’t be any regret. & i know that. & they would know that too.
MERYL: my grandma is getting very old & i always have plans when she asks me to help her plant gardens.
NINA: it becomes real addictive to not feel emotionally. i won’t let myself become open.
STEFAN: have you guys ever been to wal drug? there are signs for it when you are driving west, like, 500 miles to wal drug. it’s a convenience store but big. they have ceramic magnets there.
stefan broke a ceramic magnet when his parents weren’t looking & he put the two pieces together on a piece of metal so they looked like one & then he left the store even though there was a sign right over the magnet that glared: you break it you buy it. he has never told anyone about this before, he says. & we are all laughing or trying not to until we realize that stefan isn’t talking normally.
[CUT to EXT. PINES. the trees are very big & the viewers know the smell because we all know the smell. this scene is that smell but visually. it is the night time & it is very dark in the way that it cannot get in the city that i am used to. the stars shine in a way they cannot in the city that i am used to. it is me & meryl & stefan & we are telling more secrets in this new dark. it is not against the rules for us to be here because we are old but we are still whispering.]
we whisper around holy things.
[CUT to clementine & diane dancing on the beach like sam & suzy in moonrise kingdom but probably platonic. CUT to lefty scissors on an arts & crafts table. CUT to a row of tents that are less organized and pretty than the ones in moonrise kingdom because they are not homes, they are much more temporary. CUT to a thunderstorm & trees falling from lightning. CUT to canoes following each other. ZOOM in on ben’s face. he is leading & the song from moonrise kingdom that plays as sam goes in his canoe to find suzy is playing.]
our talking tips into the water like teenager-captained canoes often do. like we often do.
we call the people who live around the river: michigan wildlife. they catcall the girls in our bikini tops & they swing off ropes to get into the river & sometimes we worry they will try to get close to us & sometimes the boys take a step back as we talk about how we will use our paddles as weapons. i hope we are scaring them. i hope it is clear: veronica isn’t the only one who will watch men explode. it is important to me that everyone knows we can be dangerous if we want.
& they do.
this is how to know someone: take them on a river & hand them a paddle. do not tell them where to go at forks in this river because you do not know either. when you fall, let the river take you until a branch or someone who has grown to love you catches & holds & raises you up.
by thursday i have twenty-two bites on my left leg & everyone agrees i give the best back rubs.
ben does this thing where if you hug yourself he wraps his arms around yours from behind & lifts you & your back cracks like windows.
i am the first to recognize that this is what a boy sounds like when he is choking on his words. when he is trying not to become several pieces everyone will have to pretend are one. & stefan is across the room looking at the ground.
our hearts beat in the cement & we all instinctively become the kind of tree a camper could build a house in. thinking rarely has anything to do with devotion.
[CUT to EXT. FIRE PIT. & it’s lit. & it’s dark. & everyone is singing PINEYWOOD HILLS. & everyone is crying. & it is the last night & nobody has to say that for the audience to know because we are all crying the kind of tears that only come when people are lost. & everyone is lost on that last night.]
i was raised on a song there/ i’ve done right i’ve done wrong there/ & it’s true i belong there/ & it’s true it’s my home.
& then everyone leaves slowly. everyone leaves to the tune of a different song until it is just us. & we stand around the fire. & we take turns saying the nice things we know about each other because we all have shininess around ourselves at this moment.
have you ever felt all of the air leave your body slowly? like a balloon made by someone who does not know how to tie a knot, who is desperately trying to tie it but can’t get it to stick.
[CUT BACK. CUT BACK. CUT BACK.]
all regrets are deep & we open them back up together because that’s better than bandaging alone.
once i built a sandcastle with my sister at camp, very close to the lake, & she was so happy until i let the waves take it away from her.
Isabelle Davis is an editor and writer for probably crying review and avid drinker of boxed wine. Her work has appeared or is upcoming in Skydeer Helpking, glitterMOB, Quaint, the NewerYork, and others.
Photo Credit: Amy Maroudas