A Brave Excerpt…
Fascinating, the way influence and study go hand in hand…Look here, an example from this afternoon’s free write. Clearly, Mary McCarthy, whose memoir (How I Grew) I just finished, has hijacked my voice. I guess I had more of a meandering intellectual in me than I thought. The names are changed but yes, this is of course an excerpt from a true story, embarrassing as it is, of my second summer as a camp counselor for the YMCA (I seem incapable of fiction). What a different tone!…
After three weeks of staff training, Sam (the camp director) organized a dance party the night before summer session officially began. Fortunately for those less inclined to dance, it was the summer of the Macarena and, therefore, no one had any excuse to skip out. Broken down step-by-step, it was about the simplest a synchronized dance could get, and so it was that I found myself out on the dance floor with the rest of them, Ulrika and Jules howling above the bass beat, their laughter like drums beating a rallying cry across the dance floor. Ansgar, a camp counselor from Germany, danced in front of me, his thickly framed glasses slipping down his nose with each thud and turn to the music. Behind me was the more interesting BJ, our assistant director, a round, Filipino man in his early twenties with an eye for just about any woman. He’d made the YMCA his career, at least so far, and that included the series of women he dated as well – always employed by the Y, most often beneath him in the ranks, and quite frequently coveted by his fellow employers who drooled over the younger counselors just as much as he did, but had the moral wherewithal to withhold their attractions at least until summer let out.
I think it was on my shoulders that I first felt his hands, during the opening moves of the Macarena. But as the dance progressed, so did his advances and before I knew it I was shaking my ass in his palms, invariably trying to stay synchronized with the group lest I break free from the dance and be forced to move and jive freeform, which I felt incapable of doing. I wore light, jersey material shorts that night and I could feel his hands slip across my buns as my skin shifted beneath the fabric. The sensation was overwhelming if for no other reason than the fact that the lights were dimmed and his actions were certainly out of line. And this at only the start of summer!
I made a point several weeks later, at our next staff dance, to line up with BJ again and presented my rump to him in the line up, eager for at least a little attention. He obliged and so began our silent touching, which occurred on only two more occasions that summer, always during the Macarena. Where everyone seemed to have found a mate within a few weeks of summer, I was satisfied at least to get a little naughty action on the dance floor, albeit PG at best. Later, I learned BJ had screwed a senior counselor, Sandra Hoagland, in the staff showers, a rumor that enticed me promptly to buy flip flops for the bathhouse.
Later, I fell into the hands of Emmett, a renegade counselor who came back summer of ’98 as a maintenance crew member, preferring the periphery and physical labor to the patience required to work with kids all day. I somehow found myself drunk and sitting on his lap at yet another staff party, this one to mark our summer’s halfway point, whereupon he stuffed his right hand up the back of my shirt and unhooked my bra with one hand, all while I held sloppy conversation with our director, Sam, under the dim porch light of the main building. We’d been given bulky fleece vests with the YMCA logo as promotional gifts and it was this adornment, worn hastily over my cotton staff t-shirt, which concealed Emmett’s meandering hands. I recall that Sam said something about plans for restructuring the archery course next summer, and also a new bathhouse as a part of the five-year plan. As Sam expounded further on said plan, Emmett continued his groping, by now his hand fully cupped beneath my breast, callused fingers twittering at my right nipple, all still unbeknownst to the director. Again, it was a taste of the forbidden and this time I didn’t even have to make eye contact with the perpetrator. I crossed my legs and must have continued to sip my beer. We were pulling one over on the director, and that was as exciting to me (if not more so) than the busy hand underneath my shirt.
Sam took his leave, light on his feet and utterly oblivious. The crowd of partiers had thinned and, having thought our game concluded, I swiveled on Emmett’s lap to get up and face him fully, perhaps to share a laugh. His hands were swifter still and I was instead guided into a straddling position, his legs now each wrapped around my calves and my crotch positioned directly over his. I remember the roughness of his workpants on my summer skin. His tongue found my mouth in a flat second. There must have been the rough formation of a sentence or two in my mind, some sort of rebuttal I’m sure, just as his tongue was reaching the back of my throat, and then I pulled away, somehow shocked. Had I not seen his coming? He laughed.
I went to my closest camp friend Tina the next morning. We’d taken to skipping Chapel, a required event for all YMCA campers following morning chores, and riding the horses instead. The camp horses were cared for well enough, but mostly they wanted to let loose those reins and small children who could barely withstand a trot, and gallop down the camp trails breakneck. Tina and I sensed this, needed an excuse to skip Chapel as it were, and met regularly to run the horses under the guise of “taming them” before the kids got to them for morning rides. True enough, the horses were more fatigued by the day’s end and therefore slower at the bit, but I think instead the end result was that a few of them began to associate the trails with free range galloping. The price for that would come later. For now, I needed Tina’s advice.
“You won’t believe what happened,” I’d exclaimed. But she did believe it, in fact, she’d seen it coming that night, thought I knew of Emmett’s longing, and so trusted me with him under the porch light that evening. But where had she gone off to, then? She smiled. “To the director’s bed.”
I suppose that was the kind of confidence a world champion motor-cross racer must have. To bed the director that hired her, knowing at any time he could turn around, revoke her Visa, and send her home to the film crew and familial craziness back in Czech. Tina had the same brazen manner in the corral, as well, showing no tolerance for Lady, our Palamino mare who threatened with her hind legs so profusely that only advanced riders could lead her down trails. I hesitated to raise a hand to a horse, but by mid-summer Tina had taught me better. “You let them bully you once and they’ll never forget it,” she’d recited daily in her Czech accent that had a way of curving words so that her tone was always flowing and rapid; impatient sounding if you didn’t know any better.
On the trails, Tina and I were paired most often of the ranch staff team members and so our friendship grew through the trust necessitated in such circumstances. Tina usually rode up front, and I trusted her with that; needed her for it, in fact. I was still somewhat inexperienced, despite the amount of responsibility I had, and Tina was too. But she exuded confidence, therefore the horses swiftly responded in her presence. She preferred Casino, a beautiful gelding whose walk resembled more of a trot as he always required being slowed down to keep a safe pace for the young campers. I rode in back, a horse’s length from Lady’s stained rear end, on Vegas, the retired BLM Mustang and my favorite horse of the summer. We communicated by radio and sometimes switched channels to avoid being overhead by Sam, who by then had apparently fallen completely in love with Tina.
True love, it turned out, was apparently just the thing Tina couldn’t handle. Where she aided me on the trails and in the stables, I provided a listening ear and steady stream of advice to calm her confused mind. “The heart has reasons that reason cannot know,” I finally told her, shrugging my shoulders for lack of anything further to say. It was a quote from Blaise Pascal, though I forgot to tell her that at the time. She shoved a pitchfork into steaming manure and tossed her hat from her head. “You mean to tell me there is nothing I can do?”
She treated love like an unwanted bacterial colony – something she needed to rid herself of. Later, she’d try to explain to me in so many words that she was a sex addict, though I always suspected it was sex as a safe substitute for true love that she was addicted to; that, in fact, she confused sex with acceptance and forgot entirely to fit love into the equation. Her addition, then, was to acceptance, if nothing else – though I never had the courage to put it that way to her. When she finally found both sex and love in Sam’s bed, she’d been too afraid to allow such overlap and insisted he was off his rocker. Clearly, there was more to her YMCA employment than Camp USA’s recruiting materials had promised her over in Europe. I learned, slowly, that her time in the States served the dual purpose of giving her a hiatus from the hordes of naughty motor-cross men who hungered for her. This explained the way she fingered those magazines we’d seen earlier in the store, those hands no doubt remembering the flesh behind the snapshots…
Wow! Long, wordy sentences? Semicolons? A bit of snobbishness in my tone? The past “to be” verbs left and right? I’ve truly surprised myself.
Thoughts? Reactions? Criticisms?