By Annie Z.
“Swoosh.” The car zoomed past buildings varying in sizes. I stared diligently into the distance, silently tapping my finger on the transparent window. This slightly broke the thick silence that previously drifted lazily in the atmosphere. After riding in a car for who knows how long, I eventually ran out of topics to talk about with my two comrades. After counting every object in sight, we eventually created an everlasting pit of dreadful reticence. As the car deliberately came to a halt, my friends and I took this as our cue to tug on the handle of the silver vehicle, placing our feet on the concrete parking lot, initiating a “crunch” sound. After shaking my numb legs around for what seemed like an eternity, I threw my suitcase out of the trunk, slowly making my way into the entrance of CCCC. CCCC is Carolina Creek Christian Camp, or the place I would call home for the next week or so. A brunette male wearing a neon yellow T-Shirt labeled, “Carolina Creek Christian Camp employee,” made his way to my friends and I with a cheerful smile. He then enthusiastically exclaimed, “Hello campers! Welcome to Carolina Creek Christian Camp! Please follow the staircase leading into the brick building, and register yourself in at the registration tables.” With that said, he turned his back towards us, and walked away, eyes fixated on another group of campers seemingly ranging between the ages 8-16. Deciding to follow his instructions, my feet started moving towards the pristine, white stairs, hand motioning my other two friends to tag a long. I knew a lot about this camp; however, what I didn't know was how much it would influence my life later on.
Slightly panting after pacing up roughly 20 steps of stairs, I glanced towards the scenery around me, taking in every detail and thoroughly engraving it in my mind. Ripping my line of sight away from the nature surrounding me, I noticed a white polyester table with a long line forming behind it. I Started trudging towards the table, taking a spot at the end of the line. Feeling a minor headache creep up behind me, I took a quick breath, inhaling the scent of my surroundings and trying to cease said headache. “It's been a long time since I’ve sniffed such a fresh scent.” I thought to myself, chuckling softly, wondering how I was able to differentiate between city and countryside scents.
“Annie, (my name) Yi Ming, Olivia(the two friends who I carpooled with)!” a person beside me hollered energetically, directing her speech towards my friends and I. She slithered her hand to my right shoulder, frightening me.
“Sherine (one of my close friends).” I thought recognizing her appearance of shoulder length brunette hair and shiny brown orbs bubbling with commotion. Of course, it was no surprise that she was here; we planned to come to this camp with several other friends. “Hi Sherine!” I greeted her, slightly less enthusiastically than she greeted me. This was because I was heavily worn out after our 2 hour drive to Huntsville, Texas from Houston, Texas.
Interrupting the greeting of my other two friends, the woman in front of me hollered in a low pitched tone, “Next in line,!” cutting our introductions short. After a series of questions regarding allergies and other pieces of personal information, I finally was able to make my way to the cabin.
Sliding open the transparent glass doors, an oak wood pole(in the shape of light poles dominating city streets) caught my attention. Deciding to trudge forward, I began to pace towards the pinewood cabin, integrating every crevice of wood into my mind, not wanting to forget this special occasion. Disrupting my intense train of thought, more of my friends and their parents (who had just arrived) finally caught up to my frantic running and asked to take a group picture. Nodding my head, I kneeled on the dirt showered ground next to Sherine and Yi Ming, striking a peace sign with both of my hands. Not long after this happened, it seemed that our parents were no longer welcome at the camp’s campus, and were ushered out. Having nothing to do, I started pacing towards the wooden cabin for the second time. My friend, Sherine, opened the door when a gust of wind from inside the cabin flew out at her, slightly pushing her backwards. That's when all seven of us realized that there was an air conditioner in the cabin, and dashed in trying to avoid overheating. Looking around our cabin, I noticed a short girl with a braid pushed to her left shoulder approaching us.
“Hi! My name is Anna, and she is Frankie” the short girl said, pointing to another young lady with long blonde hair tied up in a bun. We will be your consoulers for this week!” She spoke with a smile tugging at the corner of her light pink lips. Others around me were unpacking their suitcases and choosing a bunk bed out of the seven in our room, so my group of friends instantly took the hint and started to do the same.
“Do you want to be bunk mates?” Sherine asked curiously.
“Sure!” I replied eagerly.
After 20 minutes or so, our two counselors ushered us out of the cabin and into the large building that we previously went to for registration earlier. A tall, broad-shouldered man with his hair put up into a man bun entered the building along with his campers as my cabin mates and I took a seat.
“Hello campers! How are y’all enjoying your stay so far?” one of the consoulers unfamiliar to me asked.
An array of positive verbal feedback flooded the auditorium as I stayed silent, unable to assess the enjoyment of my stay, since I had mixed emotions about it so far. The counselor then proceeded to explain the instructions he had in mind about how the camp will be structured, from breakfast to a church-like activity, reading it so thoroughly and fluently that I thought he was reading off of a script from afar. Suddenly, a woman and man appeared before the crowd of campers dressed in strange attire: superhero costumes. Suddenly, another counselor who I did not know dressed in a rat costume kidnapped the man who was explaining the instructions and ran off. That day, I experienced pure bliss, it was everything a man could dream of, but something was missing.
The next few days of camp went exactly like the first day; however, I felt extremely uneasy (like I mentioned before)for some uncertain reason that I couldn’t put my finger on. Brushing that thought off, I continued to survive though the camp. Then, the third day arrived, and I finally recognized the missing piece of my puzzle.
Early in the morning, at 7 am, my cabin consoulers woke my cabin mates and I up clamoring something about “a field trip.” As soon as everyone brushed their teeth and changed their attire, we followed our counselors out the door like a string of pre-k children following their instructor.
From then on, my cabin counselors proceeded to seat all 14 of my cabin-mates onto the concrete ground. There I sat, clawing at the numerous miniature pebbles, that sat oh-so-peacefully beneath me. This was extremely aggravating due to the chaos ensued beside me, and how something can be remarkably serene despite the circumstances. If I didn't know better, I would’ve thought I was observing a child rampage. My head then bobbed towards the clear sky, eyes squinting slightly as the UV rays engaged in cavort with every visible object that wasn’t ducking under the blanket of prancing shadows. Scorching sun burning the apex of my stubby big toe as it peeked out of the gawky sandal endorned to my foot.
“Zoe Abraha.” a rather short female counselor hollered, bringing shivers down my spine in shock. In response, another brunette sat up and began to board the bisque bus that had emerged when I was trapped in my asylum of thoughts. I was slightly confused, but I just sat there, deciding to mimic everyone else and board the bus after my name was called. As a long list of names left her mouth, there were only a few campers who still waited to be called, including myself and Yi Ming, my friend that carpooled with my other friend, Olivia and I. After 10 minutes, all campers boarded the bus which was bombarded with the endless chatter of campers.
I made my way next to Sherine and my comrade Julia, as they were the only ones on the bus who I recognized and had an empty seat besides them. Exhausted from sleep deprivation, I stood silent on the whole 30 minute bus ride to a place in which I did not recognize. In spite of my unamusement, I blankly stared out the window where a pleasant sight was bestowed upon me. There were life vests inflated with buoys in the interior of the shed where we arrived. There were so many life vests I swore I could build a life sized castle out of them. The exterior of the scrawny shed was an utopia of black and white pebbles ranging in size. An ocean of diminutive rocks, washing over my body and soul, leaving me with this sense of replenishment.
I strode down the coarse uneven steps of the bus after the instructors raspy holler to “get off the vehicle and line up in front of the neon orange life vests!” After nearly burning the soles of my feet off in my attempt to run across the ocean of pebbles barefoot (like what they do for punishments in TV shows), I stood wearily in front of the bright orange life vests, resisting the urge to touch them alike a child resisting a jar of cookies. After the rest of the bus lined up in a mostly straight line, Anna started giving instructions about what to do. Due to my lack of attention directed towards her speech, all I could make out was “Take life vests...Annie, Julia, Olivia, Sherine, Kathy, Yi Ming(my friends that planned to go to this camp with me) Anna group… tubing...fun” By the time she finished her speech, everyone began to pick out life vests adequate for their body size. I reached out towards the rusty rack, peering towards the center of the steel bar, where a greatly decolored life vest lay. My finger collided with the squishy foam and soggy fabric of the vest as I swiftly pulled it over me and buckled all three of the opaque black notches while chucking the water shoes laying beside me onto my foot.
After 10 minutes, my group members and Anna treaded towards the grassy meadows and muddy fields, for we were the first group to tube. The dewy grass cackled with every step my textured black and teal water shoe took. The muddy terrain squished against my shoe, forcing itself onto the scaled blue stripes. “Aw man!” I hollered,realizing that I just dirtied my brand new shoes. Slightly agitated, I paced towards the metal bars leading into the musty body of water. The liquid was green, yet sparkling like a shiny diamond under the fierce rays of the sun. Deciding to finally enter the water after heavy procrastination (I really wanted to gaze at the scene for a longer period of time), I tugged on the silvery sheen of the bars, deeply wishing not to slip. Despite my ambitions, my aspirations ended in complete failure. While attempting to step into the lake at the last gradation, the mud on my shoes scraped against the aluminum notch causing me to tumble right into the water with a painful “THUD!” Waves of water rippled violently on the surface along with a reverbating eruption of laughter.
After 5 minutes, everyone made their way into the water safely starting to amble towards the boat . I was up first. As I stepped onto the grainy surface, I noticed that the boat was attached to a red and yellow buoyant tube, along with four opaque black handles. It had two leather seats seated in the front, two in the middle, and a row of three in the back. The corridors of the boat were also ravishing. Beige cloth clinging onto the surface of the interior of the boat as glazed wood shrouds the handle. My friends Yi ming and Julia decided to wait in the back with me while observing the view of shredding water in reaction to the movement of the boat.
Purely from the speed, large tides flung themselves towards each other and repelled with high velocity. Hues of light green, musty yellow, and hints of beige shrouded the ocean surface bathed with the warm embrace of the sun. Suddenly the boat came to an abrupt halt. Anna took this as an opportunity to call Kathy and Olivia as the first group up to begin tubing. From then on, they hollered shouts of enjoyment, fear, and absolute misery. Before I knew it, it was my turn to climb aboard along with my friend Julia. I remembered ascending the resilient tube and caressing the fiber before clinging on to the thick opaque shaft as the schooner began to budge. We blared out loud raspy voices until the vehicle once again stopped. Well, actually, Julia shrieked until her vocal chords became hoarse, while I sunk deeper into the supernatant object contemplating my life choices.
After plummeting off the boat, I reunited with the rest of my cabin-mates and began to fool around underwater. We dipped each other into the lake, imitating the Lion King scene where the gorilla holds Simba over a cliff. After the excitement died down, I seemed to notice that I dropped my neon pink goggles somewhere into the abyss of water. “It’ll be ok, I’ll find it sooner or later.” I told myself. But as seconds turned to minutes, and minutes turned to hours, I couldn’t find the goggles anywhere despite my thorough scavenging. “10 minutes until we leave, campers!” a counselor hollered. After his loud abrupt statement, my mind became clouded with thoughts, almost all ending with question marks. “What if I never come to Huntsville again, and leave my goggles here forever?” “Will I ever see my beloved goggles again?” “I shouldn’t have been so careless!” “You’ve only had the goggles for a span of a week, how could you lose them already? You must be so disappointed in yourself!”
After my last thought, my heartbeat began to rapidly accelerate, my breathing was ragged, my fingertips were quivering, and my legs began to imitate Jello-o. “You ok there?” Yi Ming who noticed my uneasiness questioned. “Of course!” I quavered, my vocal chords starting to give up on me. “It’s time for dinner!” Frankie eagerly shouted right after my response. However, I didn't hear a single word she said. The only term that resigned in my mind was “No.” “You mustn't leave. You’re still uncertain of the location of your goggles. You can't!” I told myself. Disobeying what my mind was telling me, I hesitantly wobbled onto the dense ground for the first time in hours.
For the first ten minutes, everything was fine, except for my lack of vocality and social input. But then when everyone was starting to wrap up their tacos, my bottom lip began to quiver, salty tears treaded down my pale skin, and a lump began to form in the aperture of my throat. The walls began to close in on me, everything went blurry, my last memory was the scent of salt.
Yes, I may have made a scene in front of the whole camp, but that’s when everything changed. Since I already let every drop of sorrow out, I broke down the formerly restricting mental barriers that I unconsciously placed around myself. I wasn’t circumscribed by my own limitations anymore, and I felt free. Now months later, that is what I reckon as the missing piece to the first three days of camp. Allowing change.