I was fourteen years old and learning how to suddenly be six inches taller than my peers. He was skinny and had a lot of hair gel. We were at Preacher’s Kids Camp; the place where you quite possibly might find the most angst-filled set of teenagers in America. Most of us were in various stages of rebellion from being forced to lead worship, be a church greeter, or just being a public figure. It was a place to commiserate and escape. And a place to meet cute boys.
In those days I thought I was pretty tough since I had been in martial arts for many years, and I thought this Hair Gel Guy should know about me. I could do jumping spinning kicks to the face! My pick up line? “I can beat you up.”
He sized me up and quipped back, “No you can’t.”
Pfff! Well, now he had to prove it! All I remember is seeing trees and sky behind my flying legs as he hurled me over his shoulder and smacked me onto the ground. And I guess that’s when I fell in love! I mean, if I was going to be Xena Warrior Princess I didn’t want a wimp of a man by my side.
Hair Gel Guy and I were inseparable, and when we were put on the same team to create a skit that made everyone roar with laughter and stand with applause, we knew we were a great team. One morning before breakfast we snuck out for a walk. It was a hazy, cool morning with trees covered by a light mist; lovely little forest noises of crunching leaves and gentle breezes.
We found a boat and took it out on a small lake. We were completely silent on that boat. I was too nervous to say anything and small talk made me sweaty. Besides, what could we say about our doomed romance? Camp was ending that day.
Parents started showing up, eager to ask what kinds of good choices we made while free from their supervision. I remember watching Hair Gel Guy walking away and thinking, well, that was fun. I was sorry to see him leave and since it was long before social media and cell phones, that was the end of that. Parents would probably eavesdrop on house phone calls so, of course, it was best to just say goodbye.
I took a picture of that boy and kept it for a long time. When I was in high school I adored photography. I took the negative from that picture and processed it into a black and white photo. I remember watching his face slowly appear on the glossy paper. He was just as cute as I remembered him.
It was two years later from developing that picture that I was dropped off at college, completely lost, and as a very broken person without a single friend. My first experience with my roommate was with her packing to leave. She had just had a fight with her boyfriend, or she was angry at the world, it was unclear, but she wasn’t in the mood to deal with a stranger invading her space. She irritably packed up her luggage and huffed at my presence. Then she left without saying one word to me. It felt horrible. I didn’t know why I was there.
The next day there was a knock on the door. A maintenance worker was standing there looking grungy and hurried. He said he had orders to fix a bunk bed. Since my angry roommate left and the other hadn’t shown up yet I was excited to have someone to talk to. I mentioned my dad being a pastor, which was funny because his dad was also a pastor. I talked about going to camp as a kid, and he said he also went to camp. How fun!
In the middle of our conversation the maintenance worker suddenly stood up and asked, “Do you remember me?” The moment he said that, I suddenly did. It was Hair Gel Guy!
To Be Continued…