Home > Just a Boy and a Girl in a Little Canoe(6)

Just a Boy and a Girl in a Little Canoe(6)
Author: Sarah Mlynowski

“I don’t care. Call me anyway. I don’t think the phone will work, but leave a message. I want to hear your voice.” I need to hear your voice. I swallow hard. “I’ll call you back as soon as I can. I miss you already.”

“I miss you, too. I love you, Beautiful.”

“I love you, too.”

He’s the first guy I have ever said “I love you” to. He is my first everything. I always felt awkward with guys when I was younger. Maybe because I’m an only child, maybe because I was so terrified of my nickname coming true—but I mostly kept away from boys. I started flirting senior year of high school, but it wasn’t until college that I finally felt confident enough to put myself out there for real.

I waited seven months to sleep with Eli. He called me “Beautiful.” No one had ever called me that before.

“Have an amazing summer,” he says.

“You too,” I say. “Don’t get pickpocketed.”

“Don’t get Lyme disease.”

“I love you.”

“I love you.”

“I’m going now,” he says. “I have to find my passport.”

“That’s why you need your money belt.”

“Ha! Bye for real.”

“Have a safe flight,” I say, and wait for him to end the call.

He does.

I stare at my phone. He’s going. He’s really going.

I watch as his texts from earlier spill onto my screen now that there’s service.

Eli: Did you make it? How are the ticks?

Eli: Going through security! Bomb jokes, yea or nay?

Eli: Made it! They loved the one about two terrorists walking into a bar.

Eli: You’re not lost wandering around somewhere in the Adirondacks are you?

All his texts make me feel slightly out of breath. Like I’m treading water and can’t feel the ground.

Crap, do I really have to take a swim test?

Talia and Lis step out of the showers. They are both wearing bathrobes and towels tied around their hair.

They take the stairs slowly.

“All good?” Talia asks.

“Yup. Just catching up,” I say. The tension in my neck is back.

A new message flashes across my screen.

“I’ll meet you guys in the cabin,” I say.

They hurry to the bunk while I look back down at my phone.

Mom: I just ran into Jennifer Katz at the Fresh Market who has a daughter going to your camp! What age do you have again?

I write back:

Me: Eight year olds!

Mom: Oh! The girl is eight. I think her name is Francie.

Me: Fancy!

Mom: No, Francie!

Me: Yes. They call her Fancy. She’s in my bunk.

Mom: Ah. How’s camp? All good?

Me: Yup. Just got here. All good there?

Mom: Your father is driving me crazy but that’s nothing new.

My father is always driving my mother crazy and my mother is always driving my father crazy. They’ve been married for twenty-five years. I’d say they are an adorable old married couple, but they aren’t. Sometimes I catch them looking at each other like they genuinely despise each other. They’ve been together since they were sixteen. They sleep in separate rooms. My mom says it’s because my father snores, and he does snore, loudly and horribly, but I don’t think that’s the only reason. I think they just don’t like each other. Honestly, I don’t know why they don’t get divorced. I always thought they would once I went off to college, but so far it hasn’t happened.

My dad had a brain tumor three years ago—his second—when I was in eleventh grade. The surgery got it, and he’s in remission, but now he has to walk with a walker and doesn’t want to go anywhere and he can’t even drive. Maybe my mom feels bad about leaving him. Maybe he’s too tired to leave her. Maybe it’s less scary to stay and be miserable than to face the unknown.

There is a clacking over the loudspeaker. A loud squeak and then, “Attention, all counselors. Attention, all counselors. It is now time for dinner. Please head to the office. I mean the Dining Hall. Sorry. The Dining Hall.” Crash.

There’s a new text from Eli.

Eli: Hi. On plane. Taking off soon.

I type back: Miss you. Love you.

Eli: Love you. Miss you.

My throat tightens again and my eyes fill with tears.

I feel a prick on my arm and see another mosquito. I flick it away, but realize it’s too late. I’ve already been bitten.

“These meatballs are better than I remember,” I say, taking another scoop.

Meals are served family style. Talia got the tray for us from the kitchen even though she isn’t eating any.

“I’m a vegetarian,” she explains, squeezing a glob of hand sanitizer in her palm. “I pretty much just eat the soy-butter-and-jelly sandwiches all summer.”

In addition to the main dish, there’s a salad bar with veggies, bread, and soy butter and jelly outside the kitchen. A pitcher of water has already been set out by the kitchen staff at every table.

“Last year I gained ten pounds at camp,” Lis says. “It was ridiculous. This year I am making friends with the salad bar.”

“There’s so much walking though,” I say. “I’m starving already and I’ve only been here, like, an hour.”

The three of us are sitting on the end of one of the wooden Dining Hall tables, against the wall. The Dining Hall is a long rectangle and divided into three sections. Juniors, inters, and seniors. Our section has six tables in it since there are six junior bunks.

Lis is sitting with us even though she should be at the next table over. I’m not sure why, but Janelle isn’t here yet so maybe she just doesn’t want to sit alone.

I spot Gavin walking into the room. He waves at me.

I wave back.

“How hot is he?” Lis whispers.

“Pretty hot,” I say back.

Our section is closest to the kitchen and salad bar.

The walls are covered in various plaques. Superbowl plaques. Color war plaques. Activity plaques, dating back to the 1970s, when the camp first opened. There’s even an old big Star of David over the door. Way back in the 1970s, the camp was religiously affiliated and all the staff and campers were Jewish. But even eight years ago, when I’d been here, the owners had been trying to make the camp more inclusive. What had once been called Shabbat Dinner for the first fifty years was now called Friday Night Dinner; and instead of serving kosher food, meals were now just kosher style: meaning no shellfish, pork, or cheese on hamburgers.

I look around at the counselors. Out of the seventy people, about a third look familiar. I’d guess about 60 percent of them are teens who once upon a time were campers here. The staff seems only slightly more diverse than when I was a camper though; there’s Lis of course, although I’m pretty sure she’s Jewish, and Priya, who is Indian American, and I spot a few African American counselors who I haven’t met yet. For the most part though, camp is still mostly Jewish, and mostly white, which is weird to see after living in a place like New York City. Seems like someone should tell the owners that if they really want camp to be more diverse it’s going to take more work than renaming the meals.

I help myself to another meatball.

“What’s for dessert?” I ask.

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