If Hell Had a Showerhouse, part 2.

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Here is part 2 of the infamous showerhouse story, written by Opposite Gender Soulmate in 2003. This particular storm happened a few years before he wrote this story, so clearly the expderience has been burned into his mind. Please read part one first!

And just so you know, his views on always being alert for the death of a camper? Yeah, he’s fucked up. Of COURSE safety was our priority, but not in this manic, compulsive sort of way he describes. Really…

—————–

I can’t remember being scared of the dark before I went to camp—not really. My mother could probably cite pre-adolescent instances: when I obnoxiously demanded the lights in my room remain on all night long, or when I refused to open the backseat car door after sunset because someone (a killer) could easily be crouched, beyond my perception, behind the driver’s seat. Withstanding, I’ve never been as scared of the dark as I have been at camp.

Early memories of fright pale when I conjure the entire summer of nights I spent walking alone through the lonely woods—through blackout—to my cot, which was distanced enough to keep both campers and female staff members safely out of my masculine, assumedly pedophiliac reach. It is my gender that has betrayed me, I’d think after breaking into a sprint along timeworn trails, having all the grace of a maimed water buffalo. “No,” I’d mutter to myself, panting through a cold sweat, deftly dodging roots and stones while dozens of imaginary attackers fell in my wake. “This organization is sexist. Damned Girl Scouts.”

As I approached the forbidden shower house that Friday afternoon, my awareness smothered by the falling water and the sounds of terrific confusion coming from within the small building, the sky was inked over with a barely luminous green that reminded me of photographs I’d seen of hurricanes, or a movie about an alien invasion. It was 2 pm, but the storm blocked out most of the sun. As I noticed the dark impressions of giant trees bending themselves dangerously above the shower house, which was topped by a molded Plexiglas skylight, I wanted to go home.

Moments like this remind camp counselors how fragile the situation has always been. In fact, midway through the summer, half of our job had become only to perpetuate the illusion of security. You’ll notice, if you check your camp literature, that it was never guaranteed your child would emerge without shards of skylight embedded in her skull. You drove up, saw the warm smiles on our faces, and totally forgot the fine print as you signed the two page medical release. Now it’s Friday, you’re driving three hours to pick up your daughter from her week at summer camp. You notice it’s a little windy and there is some cloud cover. You have no idea that at that very moment, your little girl is choking back tears, wet and shivering in the cute two-piece peach and chartreuse bikini you purchased at Wal-Mart one week earlier as she follows the lead of a manic 19-year-old with Baby-Jane mascara running down her cheeks and sings the chorus of “Thunderation” at the top of her lungs for the eighteenth time, all the while reluctantly wedged between two girls she’s never met and trying to ignore the sour smell of urine and adolescent sweat which is getting stronger and stronger by the minute.

I was standing outside watching the storm, no longer concerned with my own dryness, as a smaller-than-average girl emerged trembling from the shower house in khaki shorts and a blue one-piece. She spotted me and ran over barefoot, blinking through raindrops that pelted her face. I pulled myself together and summoned an authoritative baritone, which had become a useful gift for commanding attention among a camp staff that was otherwise made up of young women.

“Please, back into the shower house. It’s no fun out here in the rain,” I said trying to smile and holding my palms out to create an imaginary boundary no camper would dare cross. A blue-white jag of lighting struck almost immediately above me illuminating her face in three flashes. Her wet brown hair was stuck to the sides of a crumpled expression I can officially describe as acute distress.

“Where is my sister?!” She demanded. “She’s not in there. I mean, she’s not with her group. Shouldn’t she be with her group?” Her sentences were perfectly articulated but came out franticly on top of one another.

“Let’s go look again,” I said, holding one of my do-not-cross hands above her head without touching her. It was almost always enough and they usually responded as though I was touching them, guiding them with actual force. If her sister was missing, this day was about to get a hundred times worse.

Earlier that day, I sat on the edge of the pool scanning the water for drowning victims and enjoying light conversation with Goldie, a counselor imported from another country. “What do you think would happen if a camper did drown?” She asked me. It was always on our mind, the potential funerals we would attend en masse, crowded around a miniature casket wearing our camp staff sweatshirts and singing a slower, minor-key version of the camp theme song that opened every week of camp. We’d sing the line “whether your stay be long or short” and brave tears would stream silently down our faces.

“I don’t know. “ I said blankly. “I guess they’d close the camp. It would be really, really sad.”

When the rain had started, about thirty minutes into pool-time, the water was teeming with frail limbs and oily hair. When the first lighting struck, we pulled them out of the water, one group after another. Five minutes later, the storm was on us, and campers were ordered into the showerhouse because there was no place else to go.

The little girl walked through the mud in front of me spraying bits of dirt up on my legs. I could sense her anxiety over the missing sister and it began to fuel my own. When I got to the shower house entrance, Existere was standing there, half of her body under the shelter, and half of it out in the blowing rain. Her face was half smiling at me with the familiarity that was my greatest comfort that summer, and half trembling with expectation that the world would end at any minute. She was half singing “The Littlest Worm” and half spitting water away from her face. I knelt down and asked my charge her sister’s name.

In three minutes we had confirmed the girl was not in the shower house, that she should have been in the shower house. A kind of intense calm washed over Existere’s face and she put her hands on my shoulders again.

“Take my radio. Find her.”

To be continued…

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One Response to “If Hell Had a Showerhouse, part 2.”

  1. If Hell Had a Showerhouse, part 3 « existere (latin): to stand out, to emerge. Says:

    […] existere (latin): to stand out, to emerge. existence as becoming, bursting forth. « If Hell Had a Showerhouse, part 2. […]

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