One morning when I was 15, J and L and I walked from L’s house down to the lagoon at the end of Skiff Ave., carrying a canoe on our heads, just before dawn. Only L knew how to canoe; she paddled. We saw the sun come up and it felt like we were the only people in the world. I don’t think we talked much, or at all. That’s how I remember it, but my memory is unreliable.
Another time we walked from L’s house to a hotel at night, climbed over the fence, and jumped into the pool with all of our clothes on. We walked back to her house dripping wet. Some boys passed us and asked why we were soaked. We told them and felt cool.
It was maybe that same summer that L and I slept on the beach on the far end of Owen Park Beach – it may have even been private property. I suppose you probably couldn’t get away with that sort of thing now, but in 1994 we did. When I say we slept on the beach, we literally slept on the sand with no tent or even sleeping bags. In the morning, with sand in our hair, we bought breakfast at Cumberland Farms store, instant cappuccinos and Hot Pockets microwaved right there in the convenience store.
I couldn’t have explained why I lied to my parents in order to do things like this, but it felt important. To slip away from ordinary life and exist in the margins, to be nobody nowhere, even for 24 hours. Even for 12 hours. Even for 2 hours.
There was a time a year or so later when a group of friends and I camped out in the State Forest. It wasn’t a legal camping spot but no one would catch us there. It was just a clearing out in the woods somewhere. It was early November, too late in the year to be camping, especially as we were with just sleeping bags and some basic survival skills. We built a campfire. I took pride in being good at building a nice campfire because I had figured out how to do it by my own internal logic. We passed around a flask of something. We let the fire die down slowly as we huddled around it in sleeping bags. In the early morning, one of my friends woke up and screamed that her contact lenses were frozen to her eyes. We all laughed. Waking up outdoors with your whole body warm in a sleeping bag except for the top of your head and your face feeling chilly in the November morning isn’t like anything else.
There was another time we were camping in another forest and S called to me to sleep in his tent. We slept side by side in sleeping bags. When we woke up in the morning our faces were inches apart. I could see tiny grains of sand in his eyelashes. He said something to me about a bird and I replied. I didn’t understand him, at all. Later he wrote a poem about it and read it at an Open Mike in front of our friends and everyone. He’d made a literary reference to a girl and she didn’t get it. He didn’t mention me by name but I slipped out of the coffee shop and stood outside in the night keeping my tears in. Someone out there smoking a cigarette said my haircut made me look like a homeless kid.