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I have a photo of a girl whose name I do not know.  There was a time when she was my best friend.  For one week, seven wonderful days, we were best friends.  The reason we're not anymore is not something tragic, like a horrible accident.  It's so commonplace, so entirely average that it's barely even worth a blip on my radar.

The photo in my hand was taken mid-laughter. We were probably laughing at some silly inside joke that seemed a lot more funny than it really was. Our sweaty, badly cut hair is escaping the ponytails that we so inexpertly secured it into.  Mine is brown, hers is bright red.  Freckles are splashed across her arms and cheekbones, lighting her smile up with something that only redheads have.  Our riding helmets dangle from our elbows, filled with treats for the horses.  My whole left side is covered in dust from the fall I had suffered earlier that morning.  

I can't even recall which summer this picture is from, or how old we were.  Twelve, thirteen?  It doesn't matter.  For all intents and purposes, we were outside of real time.  Summer camp will do that to you.

After the photographer took the photo, we probably ran off, because twelve year olds run everywhere, scattering bits of the horse treats.  The horses would look at us with their big, sweet eyes as we hand fed them each bit, drawing it out on purpose to enjoy the time as much as possible.  They took the bits of food daintily, their soft lips brushing our hands and snuffling as they greedily looked for more treats.  Pedro bumped my hand, begging for more, and I scratched that favorite spot between and just behind his ears.  He nibbled my fingers gently, his version of a kiss.  

We braided the horse's manes, and talked and giggled.  The world outside camp was a distant, fading memory.  It was real, and it mattered, but only a little.  Just enough to talk about, but not enough to really take seriously.

"This is the only time I ever get to see horses," she says.  "I live in the middle of the city."

"You could take lessons outside the city," I suggest.

"Dad says it's too expensive.  Getting him to let me come here every summer is a battle."

"You can come to my house anytime you like and ride our horses."

She smiles her special, redheaded, freckly smile.  "I'd like that.  We're going to be friends forever, aren't we?"

"Forever and ever.  Where else could you go to ride horses after camp?"

For seven days, the entire world ended at the edge of the field where the horses grazed.  And at the other end, the fence with the big red signs that read "POISON OAK—KEEP OUT."  We could believe that nothing would change when we went home.  We exchanged phone numbers and agreed to visit each other as often as we could.

Phone calls happened a few times, but suddenly we were both always busy.  Just like that, the girl who had been my best friend became nothing more than a memory that I can't name.   

Looking at those photos, I can name every single horse flawlessly.  For the ones I took care of, I can name their favorite treats, itchy spots, and idiosyncrasies.  Gypsy would stick her whole head in the water barrel to drink, right up to her ear.  Seabreeze threw a monstrous temper tantrum if Pedro left his side.  Bandit would stretch her head forward and twist her neck in joy if you scratched the spot on her belly.  Troy didn't like carrots much, but he would do absolutely anything for a Kashi granola bar.    

So how is it that I can remember all that, but not the name of my best friend?  

I put the photo back in its box, and put the box back in the closet.  

"Are you ready to go, honey?"

I look up.  My husband is standing in the doorway with my purse.  Our daughter, Alexa, has been at camp this past week, and it's finally time to go pick her up.  When we get there, she bounces towards us and hugs us tightly.  She introduces us to all her friends and her counselors, some with normal names and some with strange camp names.  Some things never change, even twenty-five years later.  Her friends introduce her to their parents, some using the name "Thumbelina."  I laugh to myself.  She really is small.  

I remember the wonderful naivety of that last day of camp, and it makes me a little sad.  Sad that we never properly said goodbye, and that my daughter and her friends won't either.  Because they truly believe that this is not the last time they will be together.  We load her suitcase and sleeping bag into the car as she gives a last round of tight hugs and complex high-fives that are clearly their "secret camp handshakes".  They all promise to email every day and call at least once a week.   

The entire ride home, she talks about her friends.  She had so much fun, it seems like she hardly missed us at all.  

"Sara tried to teach us how to make friendship bracelets.  I figured out some of the simpler ones.  But I really like this zig-zaggy one she made me.  Look, Mom!"

I look.  The bracelet is turquoise, pink, and black.  

"Can you make me one?" I ask.

"I can make a knotted one.  This one is complicated.  And Coco Puff taught me how to do flips off the diving board.  She's going to be in the Olympics.  And Carrie won night Capture the Flag all by herself!"

"Really? She was on her own team?"

"Well, no.  But she was so fast that she could have been!  We're going to be friends forever, Mom.  I know we live far away from each other, but that's what phones and email are for, right?  And you can take me to visit sometime, right?"

"Sure, I'd be glad to."  I don't tell her, of course.  It would be so cruel, for her to know the truth about camp friends.  She will find out too soon anyway.  

But it's not exactly a bad thing.  Whether she can only remember their nickname or none at all, they were still her best friend for a week.  They saw her get homesick, and comforted her.  They put a cupcake on her chair and Tabasco sauce in her soda.  Together, they shared a time that is separate from this world, because they were at camp.  They have the memories of their giggles and games, of dodging the counselors after lights-out and getting an earful when they were caught.  A name would almost make it real, and camp
is nothing if not unreal.
Written for my creative writing class. Probably my favorite thing I've written for the class so far.

Don't fave without commenting. It sucks. Comment and I'll send love. Constructive criticism especially appreciated.
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:iconballsack100:
Ballsack100 Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2014  Professional General Artist
So sad! Wonderful, certainly, but sad!
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:iconmagicoffmusic:
MagicoffMusic Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Wonderful story about camp.
It is indeed something that could happen.
Love the way you let it sort of open at the end to believe what a persons wants to believe.
beautiful written.
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:iconyellow-tulips:
yellow-tulips Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2012
thanks! i feel like this has happened to almost anyone who went to summer camp. I know it's happened to me.
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:iconmagicoffmusic:
MagicoffMusic Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
You're welcome. awh, you feel like this has happened to almost anyone who went to Summer cap.
Awh :no: Sorry to hear it happened to you :hug:s.
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:iconyellow-tulips:
yellow-tulips Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2012
Don't be sorry. It's part of my childhood. Thats part of the reason I wrote this. It's not happy or sad, it just is.
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:iconmagicoffmusic:
MagicoffMusic Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Awh okay dear.
That's true it is a part of your childhood.
That's true as well it's part of reason you wrote this.
I agree it's not exactly happy or sad it just is.
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:iconnataroque:
nataroque Featured By Owner Jul 13, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Wow I must say this impressed me. It was sad and sweet and then it was something more I can't put my finger on. I absolutely loved your description words. Just the image of the redheaded girl alone made me smile like a maniac..

Just delicious word choices and a wonderful topic.
The only thing I have to comment on is that I think I would have enjoyed more diologue from the narrator and the said best friend. Other than that I truly enjoyed this.
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:iconyellow-tulips:
yellow-tulips Featured By Owner Jul 15, 2012
Awesome!! It makes happy to hear something like that :)
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:iconxdgiirl:
xDGiiRL Featured By Owner Apr 5, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
That made me remember of my camp best friend/best friend for only a week or however you want to call her...
Actually, made me feel a bit sad, I actually forgot that her birthday was two days ago... But what really made me sad is that I think, all friends are like that, there are only a very few that remain after the school or camp end.
I'm just being emo I think, xD I'm graduating, my dog died, and I'm touchy. I'm always like that, but this year I'm worst.
I really enjoyed reading. :hug:
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:iconyellow-tulips:
yellow-tulips Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2012
Well, I was going for bittersweet, so it sounds like I hit the mark with you :)

Friends come and go in our lives for good reason. My main character would be a very different woman if it wasn't for summer camp, and I think that everyone who has gone to sleep-away camp can say the same. We can learn things at camp that we can't learn in "the real world."

Yeah, graduating can be pretty hard, and that totally sucks that your dog died at the same time :/ I know you've heard it from everyone and their mom, but you'll get through it soon. good luck!!
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:iconxdgiirl:
xDGiiRL Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
^^; Thanks. A lot.
It's a really wonderful work.
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:iconrakaseth:
Rakaseth Featured By Owner Apr 5, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Good to see you posting again, I haven’t seen anything by you in a while.

I liked the idea of camp life being an escape from reality that can’t exist for long in the real world. The first line especially was quite good, really hooking me in.

There were a couple things about the writing itself I noticed: sometimes you repeat yourself, such as in the second and third sentences. “There was a time when she was my best friend. For one week, seven wonderful days, we were best friends. You also use the word “laughter” twice in the following lines: ”The photo in my hand was taken mid-laughter. We were probably laughing at some silly inside joke that seemed a lot more funny than it really was”. If you come up with a synonym for one of them it would make it sound better.

You also mention that freckles are a specifically red-head thing? I know that people with red hair tend to get a lot of freckles, but other people do get them as well. So it might make more sense if you changed it to reflect that.

I especially liked the framing device you used of a mother taking her daughter to camp. I almost would have liked to see the story start out with her in the car driving to camp and reflecting back on the photo, then her childhood itself. But that’s an opinion.

All in all this was a good piece. Great job, and keep up the good work :D
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:iconyellow-tulips:
yellow-tulips Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2012
Thanks, glad to hear from you!!

LOL, that's kind of funny, because the assignment was to take one a few "starter sentence" choices and write a story. So the 1st sentence isn't mine.

Thanks for pointing out when I repeat myself. I know I do it a lot, and it can be really hard to catch on my own.

The freckles weren't supposed to be the "something that only redheads have" and I see now how unclear that was. they contributed to it, and it was supposed to indicate something otherwordly and a little fantastic, to go with the "unreal" theme.

I'm glad you liked it! I worked really hard on this piece :)
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