I didn’t go to Camp Oneka looking for redemption, but somehow I found it. I went to camp for the first time as a junior counselor, a Nekette. I was a train wreck for the first week. I walked around camp with weepy eyes and a drawn face. I cried at the laundromat when I didn’t know how to separate my laundry or where to put the quarters.
I was scheduled for my first 24 hours off with a bunch of the British college students. The girls were rowdy and bawdy. I was afraid of them.
A campfire roared hours before the sun set. Girls staggered with beers in hand, our raucous singing bent the grass. We crashed through overgrowth, snapping young trees, peeing in the woods, falling over one another. As we stumbled from the woods, the sun had set and our campsite was cast in bronze. Girls were stripping around the fire, some already naked and running for the lake, long legs flashing in the fire’s light, arms waving in the darkness. Prancing with knees tapping foreheads, calves stretching midair, we leapt like a herd of deer into the lake, breaking the dark surface. There was no moon. The sky was endless. Water streamed down bodies walking out of the lake. Brown glass beer bottles thrown to the side tossed light back and forth around the fire. Cigarette tips glowed like strings of lights, held between wet fingers, fizzling in soggy rolling paper. Naked girls bent with open faces into the fire to relight, laughter crackling. Water swung from eyelashes, foreheads wide. Thin ankles crossed, shivering bodies thrown against the sand, flat stomachs burning in the campfire’s light.