Cooperstown, New York -- 1999
The girl with the long blonde hair has been staring at you all week. You wonder if it’s because you’re the only kid there who doesn’t play any of the games.
A month and a half ago your parents shipped you off to a baseball themed youth camp. You assume it’s punishment for your failing grades, as they seem incredibly angry about that. You don’t really care. School is just where you go to get beat up and ignored or lectured for beating someone else up in response. The educational aspects are minimal. A couple english teachers have taken a shine to you, and the A/V teacher liked you before you broke a VHS tape smashing it into someone’s face. For the most part, though, you’re indifferent to school. Violence and nonsense are simply interchangeable aspects of life that come at your from all angles. How are you supposed to care about social studies when you know by sixth period you’ll have either been punched in the face or have punched someone in the face? Detention is a joke. You don’t really mind detention, it’s a fine place to read, and you were never in any rush to get home.
The girl with the long blonde hair has boobs. You’ve recently realized you very much like boobs. You don’t know particularly why, and all the psychology and sociology textbooks you’ve read on the subject have byzantine, incomplete answers. You’ve been reading up on sexuality, because you’ve been masturbating damn near constantly, but you have really no idea what’s going on. She sure does have nice boobs, though.
The other day you were forced to go to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Naturally, you left immediately and walked the long stretch of road back to the camp, ignoring everyone who stopped and offered you a ride. You’re far out in the middle of nowhere, and you know for a fact small towns are full of untrustworthy, doltish rapists. Everywhere in the news it seems to report that small towns are just hotspots of rape and idiocy. People just raping and accidentally murdering each other. You think the crime in your neighborhood was bad, with all the stabbings and drugs, but it seems preferable, almost stable to the horrorshow of small towns. There’s an arcade just outside of the camp you go to a lot, that has several action-western games you enjoy. There’s a petting zoo near that, and one day you went there, and pet a sedated tiger. It was gigantic, and softer than normal cats. You wonder if it would like you if it wasn’t asleep, but the zookeeper seems certain it wouldn’t.
The counselors at camp don’t like you at all. They don’t like your violent temper, or how you swear, or how you’re frequently disparaging of baseball, or that you refuse to participate in anything. Several of them refer to you as “Zero”, for reasons that escape you. Most of them are not that much older than you. The guys at camp 2 across the way bullied you, so you burned down their showers. The mystery of how the showers caught on fire has been going around, but no one blames you, because you don’t ever do anything. Now the guys in camp 2 have to wash themselves in the freezing lake, and you watch from the piers, dourly amused.
You’ve brought two CDs with you. Huey Lewis & The News’ “Sports” and Raekwon’s “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx”. You brought four shirts, two pairs of pants, and approximately one hundred books in two suitcases. You’re going to run out of books soon, and you’re pretty sure that’s going to be bad for the health and welfare of the next person to give you flack. You don’t think there’s any bookstores in town, another sign these places are awful, and no one else brought any books. You can’t ask the counselors for books, because they’ll try to get you to play those stupid games.
The other kids at the camp don’t like you either, but you haven’t got the energy to care. They come from all over the state and have dreadful, boring stories of caring families and intricate affections and insubstantial joys. You broke a plate over the head of the last kid who gushed to you about how happy he was to be at baseball camp, and now whenever you walk down the hill between the three camps, he’ll see you, and run away. You don’t have any real feeling on that, one way or another. Fear is useful, but not terribly entertaining. You briefly debate attacking a counselor to get out of camp, but they’re all in startlingly good shape.
The girl with the long blonde hair is walking towards you. You’re at the end of the pier, hucking rocks at the faraway kids on the paddleboats. They’re too far away, but it amuses you to try. You’ve been wondering if you can get an N64 when you get back. Those look fun. You have an SNES, but it glitches out every now and again, the color washing out on the old television into black and white. You’ve played black and white Link To The Past many times now.
She’s got a joint. Now you’re interested. You’ve only smoked weed a couple times before, and you’ve enjoyed it, but find the experience confusing. It seems to crowd a lot of feelings into you in a very short period of time, which then immediately dissipate. You’re very unsure what that is, and when you try to describe it to the people you smoke with, they say it’s a little different for everyone. She passes you the joint, and you accidentally take a titanic hit, and everything gets a little swimmy and pleasant but also sweaty and suddenly you’re struck by the fact she really has great boobs and is talking to you, and you’re an angry, tiny, gross nobody who doesn’t know how to get along with anyone.
After a few mumbling exchanges she outright propositions you. This piques your interest, but also freaks you out. On some level you never expected to get along with anyone long enough to have sex with them. You’ve read a lot of Penthouse, and it seems like people have to either be total strangers with an instant attraction or in some kind of strangely affectionate but broken marriage in order to have sex. You’ve read a couple Hustlers, but you find their gynecological obsessiveness and fixation on base prurience kind of dull. There’s no articles.
You agree, trying to figure out if you sound too enthusiastic or not enthusiastic enough. In a moment, you realize she’s too high to care.
She takes you back to her tent, and introduces you to a world that will both dominate and degrade your senses for the rest of your life. Huey Lewis is playing. It doesn’t take long. You try again, but it doesn’t seem to work, and you’re moderately embarrassed. She just smokes more weed, and asks you questions you have no answers to.
After that, you head back down to the pier, and sit there, again, ruminating on what happened. It was kind of gross, but kind of fun. You had expectations, from reading so many sex scenes in books, but you never really assumed it would really be like that, either. You feel oddly lonely, as well, in a way you’ll never be able to articulate. But you also feel normal in a new way, something you didn’t expect. Sex is something everyone does. It’s unifying. Normal people and weird people do it. Normal people do it weirdly and weird people do it normally, according to some of the literature.
You realize you’ve left your Huey Lewis CD in your tent, which is an excuse to go see her again. The water in the always cold lake is still, now that the paddleboats are gone.
Maybe tomorrow you’ll try fighting a counselor after all.