A moment to remember

31 Aug

The stars were bright tonight, the sky especially dark. We walked together through camp, passing the places we’d created so many memories in over the past few months. At the mess hall, the lights were out. It was dark inside. It seemed strange not to hear the plates and glasses clanking around and the dishwashers running. We’d snuck out of our cabins, just the two of us. It was the last night of camp, so what’d we have to lose? Punishment wouldn’t do anything now, not when we were leaving the next morning, each of us to head back to our homes and then, a short while later, school. All that we heard were the night sounds of bugs buzzing, and we passed through an occasional cloud of them by the lampposts. “Are the bugs bigger and louder at night, or are they just drowned out during all the sounds during the day?” I thought.

We walked onto the wooden dock and, upon reaching the end, imagined what was in the inky waters that looked so friendly during the daytime. We kicked up sand at the volleyball nets. We got close to the horses, where we heard their soft neighing, shifting from hoof to hoof and tails switching away flies. We felt alive—and, as much as two 10-year-olds can—dangerous. The thought, “What if our counselor wakes up?” was there, somewhere in our mind, but it was buried too deeply to surface. We then came to the edge of camp, to the thick, tangled tree where we’d carved our names: “Sam and Jill, Best Friends.” Instinctively we both reached to touch the grooves in the bark, memorizing it as much with our fingers as we had with our eyes. We had had to sneak my Swiss Army knife a few days earlier from my bag out here to do the carving. It was important. The tree rose in a thicket of woods near the camp clearing. In the distance we saw the lake waters, with the moon reflecting off its surface. We decided not to climb our tree’s sturdy braches but instead sit at its base, with our arms wrapped around our knees.

“Sam,” I said, “Let’s remember this moment, right now, forever—okay? We’ll grow old, but this moment will stick. Never forget.”

We both got real quit, absorbing the moment so we could stash it away in our brains forever.

“Okay,” Jill said finally. “It’s in there. I’ll remember always. But what if I forget I’m supposed to remember this exact moment?”

“Remind yourself, every summer,” I told her. “And during school, sitting at your desk. You can’t forget, not once in your entire life.”

She nodded solemnly.

The world stretched before us that summer, endless, huge. Yet all we could see was camp ending and school beginning, pencils and paper to replace bathing suits and fishing poles. We saw spelling tests and arithmetic when we wanted one more week to eat camp food and stay up late sitting on a tree stump singing songs in front of a campfire. We crept back into our respective cabins, Jill in hers and I in mine. The next morning, it was as if we never left. No one suspected our grand secret, that we had left the cabin in the night, that we had sat at the base of our tree—no one else’s—and created a moment together we promised never to forget, not ever when we’d grown old. The busses came too soon, and I saw Jill pick her duffel bag from the pile before swinging it over her shoulder. It happened so fast I might have missed if I wasn’t carefully on the look-out. I gave her a folded note, in the triangular fold I’d learned at camp, and she smiled before slipping it into her pocket.

“So I’ll see you next year?” she asked.

I nodded.

“It’ll be even better than this year.”

I saw her drive away, her face in the small, square window waving to me until I couldn’t see her anymore, and then I walked, kicking dust and rocks as I went, all the way back to my cabin. It would be another whole hour before my own parents came to get me. The camp suddenly felt empty without Jill, someplace I’d rather not be. So I took out my collection—rocks, string, drawings, candy—basically cool things I’d found over the past couple months, and as I lay on my bunk, I thought about the moment I was never to forget.


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