Nevada City, CA

The car begins to pull out of Gram’s long driveway. They all wave at us, and we wave back out of the car windows. I feel relieved when we finally turn out of view and don’t have to wave any longer. Our car is a giant – a 1995 Ford Expedition named Big Eddie; however, my knees still feel crammed in the back seat. Up in the front, Mom looks relieved. It’s funny though, because in the past, we would drive this exact same road – from Gram’s house on Banner Lava Cap Lane to the first highway and then the second and one more until we finally hit I-5 where we would go north until we were home again on Terra Linda Street and then later, Bybee Boulevard – we would drive this same road home, and Mom would be crying. Today, she isn’t.

I guess my Mom always thought we’d eventually move back to Nevada City. We live in Portland, one block away from Dad’s family but a ten-hour drive from Mom’s. Dad traveled a lot. Sometimes, he’d be gone for a month at a time, and Mom would tell us to pack our bags so we could jump in Big Eddie and head south on I-5 over the Siskiyous and past Shasta and through orchards until we reached Nevada City where we’d spend three weeks – three weeks in my swimsuit running around Gram’s property with my cousins and eating Froot Loops for breakfast and hot dogs for dinner. Nevada City is where we created the perfect storm in Gram’s pool using boogie boards while my cousin Nick in the blow-up raft would try to stay afloat amidst the giant waves and onslaught of human canon balls. When we tired of the pool, we went blackberry picking and strawberry picking and built castles out of dead pine needles in the woods. We got poison oak and sunburns and stomachaches from all the otter-pops we snuck out of the downstairs freezer when our moms were sitting outside under umbrellas reading magazines. One July, we spent an entire day searching Gram’s garden for a diamond that had fallen off her wedding ring that morning while she was planting. We all felt bad for Gram, but we were more interested in the reward she promised to the lucky grandchild who could find it. With a twenty-dollar bill, we could buy more otter-pops and go to the movies and buy all the popcorn we wanted. Our moms would tell us not to get extra butter, but we would pay for it ourselves and hey it’s a free country. At night, we’d all curl up in the giant guest room bed, my sisters and I wearing nightgowns made of giant t-shirts. We’d lie there – a pile of skinny arms and legs, a family between the sheets – and wish we never had to go home.

It’s hard to uproot yourself for a couple months a year. It’s hard to have two places that you consider home. It’s even harder when one place becomes the real home and the other the fake one. You miss things. You come into Gram’s kitchen and realize that the plastic rainbow plates are missing, that they were replaced six months ago. You come to her house, and the cat Gus who you once forced into a tutu for the ballet you were putting on in the basement is long gone – died in the winter. You start to notice things that the people who are always there can’t notice. You notice that Gram looks a lot older this year, that she and Mom are fighting all the time, and that she doesn’t buy Froot Loops for us anymore.

I don’t like swimming so much anymore. I don’t like otter-pops either. We slept until noon and drank beers by the lake, leaving our moms behind at the pool with their umbrellas and cheap magazines. Gram seems different this year, but I don’t know why. I don’t know her that well at all, really. I only know her two-months-a-year. Two out of twelve doesn’t seem like a lot, but it feels like a lot. Regardless, I don’t like to measure my relationships by how much time we can cram into the small unit of a year.

So when we leave Nevada City this year, the year Mom decrees will be our last, we all feel kind of relieved. Sad because we love this place, but relieved to know where we belong.

A Sestina For My Sister

A sestina is a complex poetic verse form comprised of six six-line stanzas and a three-line envoy whose end words repeat in a strict pattern. The pattern is as follows:

1 2 3 4 5 6
6 1 5 2 4 3
3 6 4 1 2 5
5 3 2 6 1 4
4 5 1 3 6 2
2 4 6 5 3 1
(6 2) (1 4) (5 3)

The following is an homage, in prose.


 

I’m talking on the phone with my little sister and she’s telling me how next year she’s afraid she might go crazy. She’ll be leaving for college in the fall, and she’s afraid that the Worry Boss might come back. “No,” I tell her, “That dude’s long gone, you’re going to be fine.” But I can understand why Kristen is worried, why we’re all a little worried; we’re worried because things are different with my sister.  “You’re so strong,” I say into my phone, “You’ve worked so hard and come so far.” Kristen and I both understand that going to college will be a really big step, a step that at one point my parents worried she wouldn’t be able to make at all. As we’re talking, I think back ten years to when Kristen was eight years old, and would spend most of her time not on a playground but on a couch in a big building across town where she’d tell a woman named Jenny about the worries, the fears, and the obsessions that dictated her life. But now she’s eighteen, and she’s come so far. Far enough to sit at our kitchen table and tell her story, a story she keeps a secret from even her closest friends, to someone she’d just met who needed more than anything to hear it – but that part comes later.

The dinner sitting on our kitchen table is growing cold as we wait for Kristen to go to the bathroom. The door opens, it closes, it opens, it closes, four times. “You’re crazy,” I yell from the table, “Just go to the bathroom!” Kristen has to pee, but the voices in her head are getting in the way. My sister is eight years old, and she can’t go to the bathroom, she can’t sleep, she can’t put her socks on, and she can’t close doors. As we go upstairs to get ready for bed, I hear the sounds of the bathroom door opening and slamming, opening and slamming, four times. I see her sniffing her toothbrush before she touches it. I see her sniffing it one more time. In retrospect, I should have blamed the Worry Boss that night at dinner, but I didn’t understand it fully then. Kristen opens her bedroom door and slams it, open slam, open slam, open slam, four times. I don’t have to watch her to know that upon entering her room she will check the crack between the bed and the wall eight times and sniff her sheets before she climbs into them to not fall asleep. We don’t have to watch her to know that she is far from fine.

“Our daughter is not fine,” my parents say to the doctor’s office who will conduct tests and mediate talks and talk some more and finally give us the diagnosis that my sister suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and severe anxiety: medication and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy recommended. “Yes,” my parents say, “Let’s get started now.” But in a couple of days, my sister is crying at our kitchen table because the Celexa that the doctor prescribed is making her hallucinate. “It’s going to be okay,” says my mother. “Kristen, I understand this is scary. Kristen, I’m calling the doctor, and we’re going to fix this,” she says over the crying. But she knows like the rest of us that it is not that easy. We all know it, and we’re all going crazy because of it. The Worry Boss is the name that my sister’s therapist Jenny gave to the voice in Kristen’s head that mandates the obsessions, the fears, and the constant worrying that things simply are not right. Jenny says medications are an integral part of the therapy; it’s just sometimes hard to figure out which medication fits. Because the truth is that when you are trying to combat mental illness and using medications that alter the chemicals in the brain, especially in brains that are little, that are only eight years old, that still have so much growing to do, things are not easy.

The year Kristen turned eight years old my mother drove her across the river several times a week after school to sit on a couch and face her fears. It was all part of the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – a process that hopefully would result in Kristen being all better, being able to sleep at night, being just fine. To explain it in the simplest way possible, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy teaches you how to say “no” to the Worry Boss. Every session, Kristen faced her obsessions directly. She would describe them, reason them out, and explain the compulsion that would alleviate them to Jenny. And Jenny was teaching her how to fight it, how to say no, how to resist her own mind. It was a slow process, like building a kitchen table out of toothpicks. But again, nothing in the realm of mental illness is simple or easily fixed. We’d be crazy to hope that it would be. And for Kristen, it was hard. “I don’t know how she got the spider, but one time Jenny came in with a spider on her arm and just played with it there on her arm and made me watch,” Kristen tells me, “It was torture. But the worst was when she made me go into this tiny bathroom, shut the door, it was a big door, and lock the door and stand in there for a whole minute.” She pauses before adding, “People who don’t have it just can’t understand.”

This is what we understand of how OCD works. A person who has OCD gets fixated on certain thoughts, fears, or obsessions. It is almost impossible to break free from the obsession, and it consumes the mind completely blanketing all rational thought. Compulsions can alleviate the obsessions. This is what we saw Kristen often doing even before she turned eight years old. Opening and slamming the door to neutralize her fear of being locked in a room, the sniffing of every object in front of her to see if it was safe, the counting to make things even, the praying again and again to keep everybody she loved alive: the agonizingly long, tortuous, and crazy rituals were all compulsions that aimed to silence her obsessions, even if only for a second. Following the compulsions is a temporary solution, like itching a mosquito bite, but as Kristen tells me, for a moment, just a brief moment, you’d finally feel just fine. This is also how one of my best friends explains it to me. He moved back home last spring to take care of some things, or so he told us. In August, my friend is sitting at my kitchen table at home, and Kristen is telling him all about the Worry Boss. My friend has never talked to another person with OCD before.

“I called it the Worry Boss,” Kristen says, “It helped to give it a name.” I understand it for the first time – I guess it’s easier to fight something if you can imagine the whole of it in your mind. My friend drove nine hours that day. At our kitchen table, Kristen tells him her story. There are parts that even I have never heard. “I had to touch everything, sniff everything,” Kristen explains, she giggles a little before adding, “I once touched all your toothbrushes. They were all in that container, and I touched every single one.” We laugh a little, but Kristen interrupts us to continue her story: “There was one night during my therapy, I must have been about eight years old, and that night I was not allowed to sniff anything. I remember getting tucked into bed, and I could just feel my hands wanting to rise up and pull the sheet to my nose, and I was just fighting and fighting the impulse, holding my hands down, and it was so exhausting. It’s hard to explain it.” She pauses. “It’s imprisoning,” she says. To most people, Kristen appears to be just fine. After completing years of therapy, she is able to control her OCD almost completely. Every now and then, a little crazy pushes its way out, but Kristen has the tools to fight it.

“I’m sorry, I’m being OCD, but I just can’t leave these dishes on the kitchen table,” somebody says. Kristen is very private about her OCD. Only a handful of her closest friends know about the diagnosis she received when she was eight years old, and the Worry Boss, and the toothbrush sniffing. She doesn’t understand why people use her mental illness as an adjective, but she’s not one to get angry. She would rather just not think about it. When I talked to her last night on the phone, I brought up the subject of college once again. “Oh, I’ll be fine,” she says, “It was like me going to Mexico! I was so afraid to go to Mexico, but Michaela, I had the best freaking time of my life.” I laugh, but before I can respond, Kristen is talking again: “And guess what, I flew all the way to Spokane last month by myself. Oh, and I sat next to this guy on the plane who was going turkey hunting. It was crazy.”

Worms and Coyote Joe

There are worms in my kitchen. They’re in a big box that’s filled with rotting apple cores, onion peels, egg shells, and the cilantro that always goes bad before we can finish it because the grocery store sells cilantro in bunches that are too big. Yesterday, my roommate Tillie went to visit the worm lady. She was supposed to go in the morning, but the worm lady blew her off. Tillie called and called, and heard and heard the same answering machine message that opened with the line, “Hello. This is Barb or Mom.” Tillie was mad that Barb the worm lady blew her off, but not mad enough to find a new worm lady because that afternoon, Tillie drove out to meet Barb again. Barb lives by the community college; she has long blonde hair, two different colored eyes, and she raises worms for a living. When Tillie returned with a big box of the desired crawlers, I asked her why she did not just go to a fishing store and buy worms there.

“Oh no. These are special worms,” Tillie explained. “They are red wigglers. They are going to turn our compost into black gold.”

I found out that we were getting worms when I dumped my coffee grinds into our composter a few weeks ago. As Tillie opened the lid and saw the black sludge, she paused for a moment before calmly announcing,

“Michaela. Just for future reference, the worms cannot digest citrus, meat scraps, pine needles, or coffee grind.”

“What worms?” I asked from the kitchen table.

“The worms we’re getting,” Tillie replied.

“Oh,” I said, “Those worms,” and left it at that.

The worms have become Tillie’s latest obsession. She gazes at them, talks about them, talks to them, and every day at exactly  4 p.m. moves the box into our kitchen to keep the worms out of the direct sunlight that hits our porch in the late afternoon. Lately, she has been giving me hourly updates on their well-being. I don’t have the heart to tell her that I really do not care so much about the worms in our kitchen. I’ve learned it’s better to just give her a big smile and say something like, “Really?” or “Oh, wow!” or “No, I don’t think you should be worried. That sounds like normal worm behavior to me.”

I’ve lived in this tiny apartment in Walla Walla, Washington with Tillie for 8 months now, and in that time I have learned that Tillie is prone to obsessions. Whether it’s the rain, the blinds on our front window, her spinning class, a new kitchen knife, her need for a good bread knife, the gas bill, the documentary film “The Business of Being Born,” unplugging the microwave, her new Americore friends, or the crunchiness of granola varieties – Tillie always has things that she just needs to talk about several times a day. Last week it was her cilantro plant. Next to our window is a little garden of potted plants that are one day going to be transplanted into Tillie’s spot in a community garden. She started planting things in our living room about a month before the recommended growing time. I think she just couldn’t wait.

The cilantro is growing fast. Everyday, Tillie remarks that she thinks she sees another leaf on it. The okra is another story. All of Tillie’s gardening handbooks say that okra is best to plant directly into the garden, but Tillie decided she wanted to try to grow it early anyway. Now, every morning after marveling at her thriving cilantro, Tillie laments the poor okra. “Does it look dead to you, Michaela? It looks worse than yesterday, doesn’t it?” It certainly does look a little dead. I asked Tillie’s boyfriend David about the decision to plant the okra early against all advice from the experts. “We were excited. We were selfish,” he told me. More than Tillie, David is a little disheartened at the okra’s demise. I think he was looking forward to it the most.

The garden in our living room took me by surprise. I woke up one Saturday morning, and in the hours between my falling asleep and my emerging from my bedroom the next morning, dozens of tiny soil plots were lovingly laid out on heating pads in front of the windows with a thermometer rigged to record the temperature of the soil. In retrospect, I think I should have seen the living room garden coming the moment the onion plant came into our lives. A few weeks prior, Tillie planted a green onion bulb in a small pot and put it in our window. The onion grew remarkably fast. Every hour, Tillie would come by and measure it. She’d call me into the room and say, “Look at it, Michaela. Just look at it! It’s so big!” One time, as I shuffled out of my room in my t-shirt and underwear, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes and bee-lining for my coffee maker, I jumped at the sight of Tillie sitting on the couch waiting for me, the onion plant in her lap. “Look at it!” she exclaimed, smiling widely and proudly. I tried to smile back with as much enthusiasm, but it was seven in the morning and I wasn’t wearing pants.

I suppose it’s good to have things to obsess about. It’s good to have hobbies to obsess about. They give everybody something to think about, something to think about that isn’t what they usually have to think about. Tillie’s obsessions often remind me of my father. Perhaps that is why I am able to so easily tolerate the constant cilantro chatter. I grew up in a household prone to obsessions. My father is what my mother and I call a hobbyist. Every couple of years, something new takes hold of him completely. The first obsession I remember was the truck. My father inherited his grandfather’s 1930s green Chevrolet. We called it the Green Goose. My dad remembers it as the Golden Goose, because when his grandfather Joe Echanis, a Basque immigrant, drove it through the Steens Mountains in Eastern Oregon where he worked as a sheep herder, it had been painted a vibrant gold. But The Goose was once again its original green hue as it sat in our driveway in Portland, Oregon. My dad would wash the truck every day, and spend hours trying to repair the old and heavily worn engine. For months, he dug up old pictures of the truck and put them all over the walls of his office, he painted tiny models of the truck, and gave the neighbors daily tours of his grandfather’s prized possession.

But eventually, my father found a new hobby. After the truck, my dad bought a rowing skull which he would take out in the mornings on the Willamette River. The hobby lasted for a little while, but the boat leaked and the Willamette River is fairly polluted. Then it was cycling. My dad bought all the gear: the bike, the sunglasses, the shoes, the spandex suit, and began to talk about how he didn’t need a car anymore because he could commute via bike across the Colombia River to his office in Vancouver, Washington. Later that year, when the biking dream had fizzled due to inclement weather and the fact that Vancouver, Washington was farther away than it looked, my father found The Chi of Running – a book containing a running philosophy that claimed to hold the secret to the art of long distance races. For a good month, my father talked about his new running abilities every night at dinner. “It’s all about the feeling of falling,” he’d tell us, “You have to allow your body to simply move forward, fall forward, and ride that inertia.” We didn’t quite understand what he was talking about, and quite quickly my sister who was at the time a Division One cross country runner at her university became annoyed. These days, my dad is a glass-maker. Our basement has been converted into a makeshift workshop, and there is a kiln in a closet in our laundry room. My father spends hours in our basement working on his projects, carefully recording the temperatures of his kiln, and updating us all on his soon-to-be completed masterpieces. My mom and I are hoping that this hobby sticks for a while. It seems to make him really happy.

And I think Tillie’s worms make her really happy, as do her plants and the thought of growing her own food in a garden this summer. If it didn’t make her happy, she wouldn’t talk about it so much. The worms, the cilantro, the onion plant, and the coffee-grind free compost are all small parts of Tillie’s larger obsession which is permaculture. Tillie wants nothing more than to develop a lifestyle for herself that is completely self-sustaining. While Tillie’s current hobby is gardening in our living room, her hobby is part of a larger dream of growing her own food, raising her own chickens, and reusing and recycling so that every resource, every bit of food, every plant, every budding onion is used to the utmost of its abilities.

Tillie dreams of one day living on a small farm with an herb and vegetable garden, a row of apple trees, a goat, and of course, the chickens. But sometimes when she talks about these dreams, about her quests for sustainability, about her desire for a backyard full of chickens and a diet of only local food, I can’t help but think back to my great-grandfather, Joe Echanis, who left the Basque country of Spain in 1917 to find work in the mountains of America. I think about him and I think about the house where he was born in Mutriku, a small village built into a cape on the North-Eastern coast of Spain, a village where my family still lives. I think about that white house, which I’ve seen, and how it still looks exactly as it did when my now deceased great-grandfather was a newborn baby. I think about my cousins Nekane, Jorge, Aihnoa, Augustine, Amaia, and Aitor, who still live on that hill in Mutriku, in the houses that have been passed down for generations and generations and generations, that have been remodeled and updated but still remain the houses that their parents lived in and their parents before them and before them and before them. The goal has always been to sustain the houses, to sustain their life on that hill in Spain. I think of these houses where they raise chickens and cows and buy only locally grown food, not because it is trendy, not because of the environment, not because it is fun or exciting, but because that is the only way it is done. That is what is done, and that is what has been done in that region for hundreds and hundreds of years, before the roads were paved, before the automobiles, before the wars, before the Spanish language was ever spoken. I wonder if that is why my Coyote Joe came to America – to get off that hill in the Basque country and fly a gas-guzzling golden Chevrolet over canyons in Eastern Oregon. Because in America, he could buy onions in the store rather than bending his back over them on the family hill in Spain. He could buy a dozen eggs for less than a dollar and not have to worry about feeding his chickens every morning. My great-grandfather was a strong, quiet man with thick black eye-brows and big opinions. Sometimes, I wonder what he might think about the worms in my kitchen.

Going

Play 4 of “Watercloset,” a collection of short plays in bathrooms

a teenage boy “A”
an older boy “B”
a teenage girl “C”

A rest stop bathroom off of a major freeway somewhere in America.

It is the middle of the night, and it is cold outside.

“A” and “B” enter.
There is only one urinal.
“B” pees first.

A
You sure you didn’t see a gas station out there?

B
I thought there would be one here. But it’s just the bathroom and that sign for free coffee.

A
Do you think there’s really free coffee?

B
Do you want free coffee from here?

A
Well, it would be nice to know that there is some kind of sustenance available, or maybe at least someone whose job it is to refill the coffee and so when he gets here we could use his phone. You know, if we’re stuck.

B
We’re not stuck. And if we don’t have service, neither will the free coffee guy.

A
Do they have soap in here?

B
Guess not.

A
Listen. Before we go back out there, I need to ask you something. And I don’t want you to think that I’m freaking out because I’m not freaking out, I just want to know if we’re doing a stupid thing.

B
What do you mean?

A
If this is stupid. If we’re making a mistake.

B
We’re fine. We’ll find a gas station. We’re not empty yet.

A
No, it’s not about the gas.

B
Okay. What is it?

A
I don’t know. It’s cold out here.

B
It’s November.

A
I didn’t think it’d be this cold.

B
Yeah.

A
But what are we doing?

B
We’re fine. Let’s get back in the car.

A
Can we wait a minute? That car’s so small. And it smells weird. I don’t know, it’s making me nauseous.

B
It smells worse in here.

A
I don’t mind it.

B
It smells like death in here.

A
You don’t know what death smells like, and no it can’t smell like that because it smells like bleach.

B
It’s freezing in here.

A
I need a minute okay? I need to think about something.

B
Think faster.

A
Where are we?

B
I don’t know.

A
What state are we in?

B
I don’t know. Somewhere southwest I think.

A
How much longer ‘til we get there?

B
Get where?

A
Where we’re going.

B
Where are we going?

A
I thought you knew where we were going.

B
I never said I knew where we were going.

A
But isn’t the point to go somewhere?

B
I wasn’t aware that we had a point.

A
So we’re just going.

B
Yeah. We’ve just been going.

A
But where?

B
I don’t know.

A
But –

Long pause.
“A” stares at “B”

B
Mexico?

A
Mexico?

B
California? I don’t know. Does it matter right now? The point is not where we’re going, the point is that we’re going, that we’re doing it, that we’re finally doing it. We’re just going.

A
Right.

B
Do you think anybody’s going to come in here?

A
There’s nobody out here.

B
Cool.

“B” pulls out a small bag of weed and begins to roll a joint.

A
Do you think she’ll be mad?

B
She won’t know.

A
It’s her weed.

B
She won’t know. And it’s our weed.

A
Yeah. Yeah. Do you think I look too clean? Do you think that I look like well-cared for and too hair-cutted? I mean, do I look like a poser? Do I look like somebody who someone might want to beat up?

B
Yeah.

A
Because I’m really afraid that I look, I don’t know, unauthentic. I know that’s stupid but listen, I’m afraid that people will think I’m dumb, that I’m pathetic, that I’m some rich kid who never had to work hard for anything even though it’s not true. I want people to know who I am. I want them to know that I can work hard and that I don’t want to be that kid who didn’t have to work. I don’t want to have to prove anything to them, I want them to just know.

B
Who’s them?

A
I don’t know. Future people. People we’ll meet in the future. Even you. Do you think I’m dumb?

B
No. Ready?

A
Yeah.

They light up.

A
Do you think she trusts me?

B
She wouldn’t have come with us if she didn’t.

A
But do you think that she’s right to trust me?

B
I don’t know.

A
I wonder how close the nearest gas station could be.

B
Don’t know.

A
I wonder if they’ll even be open.

B
Don’t know.

A
We should make a plan.

B
No plan.

A
We should have a plan. We’ve been gone, what, twenty hours and already we’re stuck.

B
We’re not stuck.

A
We don’t know what we’re doing, we should just go back, we should just turn around and go back. We can apologize. Maybe they didn’t even notice that we’re gone. Maybe they haven’t missed us yet. When we get back we’d have been gone for, what, two days. Two days. We’ve been gone for longer than two days before haven’t we? Yeah, only two days.

B
I’m not driving back. It’s like we said when we left, the only way forward is to get out, the only way to move forward is to move, to just move and go. We can’t go forward if we don’t go.

A
But there’s nowhere to go.

B
There’s everywhere to go.

A
But we have nowhere to go.

B
We’re out to conquer the world. We’re out to find ourselves. We’re going to sleep outside and climb mountains. We’re going to work at weird places and steal food. We’re going to meet all sorts of people and get in fights and get stuck and we’re going to see things and meet more people and experience things and we’re going to do things, we’re going to actually do things so that once we’ve done things we can write songs about them and stories about them and poems about them because if we want to do anything, if we want to be human beings, we have to go forward because it’s the only place to go.

A
I don’t know.

Enter “C”
She looks like she has just been asleep.
She is cold and angry.

C
What the hell.

A
Hey.

C
What the fucking hell.

“B” takes a final drag on the joint before putting it out.

A
You woke up.

C
Where the fuck are we?

A
We don’t know.

C
Do you know what it’s like to wake up alone in a car in the middle of nowhere while there’s a fucking blizzard going on outside and it’s pitch black and oh yeah you are fucking alone in a car freezing to death?

A
It’s snowing?

C
And then, do you know what it’s like to have to try to find your shoes underneath a pile of fucking garbage in the back of your disgusting car, and then when you find your shoes you see that there covered in fucking ketchup from the french fries that you threw into the backseat. I hate ketchup! I fucking hate ketchup! And what the hell are you guys doing in this bathroom?

A
Peeing.

C
You’re smoking my weed.

A
Our weed.

C
Excuse me?

A
Your weed.

C
It smells in here.

A
Like weed?

C
No, like – I don’t know.

A
Sit down.

C
Let’s go back to the car.

B
Do you want to smoke with us?

C
Let’s go back to the car. I hate rest stops.

B
We’re almost out of gas.

C
What?

B
Yeah, it’s on empty. I thought there’d be a gas station here, but there isn’t. Wouldn’t make that much of a difference. I only have ten bucks with me.

“B” exits.
“A” and “C” stare at each other.

C
There’s nothing out there. It’s so dark. There’s no lights. It’s so dark and quiet and cold. I hope he’s lying about the gas. I don’t want to get stuck here.

A
We won’t.

C
My family and I used to drive across the country every summer. We’d drive from Wisconsin to Florida to visit my grandma. My dad would wake us up at three in the morning to leave. No traffic that way. He could really go fast on the freeway. And we only stopped when we were about to run out of gas. We would cook quesadillas on the engine while the tank filled up and that’s how we always did it. But one time I had to pee so bad, and I couldn’t hold it and we still had a quarter of a tank. My dad only stopped when I started crying. But when I went into the bathroom there was a dead woman. I’d never seen a dead person before but I figured that was what it looked like. Now I always get it mixed up, the smell of bathrooms and death. I can’t tell the difference. Let’s go.
“B” reenters.

B
The car won’t start. I think we’re out of gas.

Long pause.

B
It’s so quiet out there. And dark. It’s really dark.

End.

27 things only a camp counselor will understand

You know that you’re only making like a dollar an hour, but haters gonna hate, you’ve got the best job in the world. People on the outside just don’t understand what it means to spend your summer in the camp wild. They don’t understand that you can in fact survive on Oreos and Gatorade and that severe tan lines and bad haircuts can be sort of cool. And they’ll never experience the absolute pride of losing your voice after defeating every child in your cabin in a yelling competition, nor will they rock tie-dye like you do. People on the outside just don’t get it. But it’s okay. Because you get it, and really, that’s all that matters.

1. If handled incorrectly, “Boom Chicka Boom” will never end.
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2. Side hugs. You know all about side hugs.
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3. Sleeping is more important than showering.
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4. There’s always one counselor who is actually an extra camper.
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5. Never trust parents when they say they didn’t pack any sweets.
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6. Tan lines can get competitive.
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7. There’s always that one kid who just really doesn’t like you.
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8. And there are always those kids who like you way too much.
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9. The world would operate better if everybody could just do some team-building exercises.
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10. Spaghetti night is the wildest of nights.
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11. Punishing the counselor is a camp game for the ages.
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12. Like really, there’s nothing kids enjoy more than punishing their counselors.
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13. Trends are easy to start.
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14. There are few things a kid likes more than a man dressed up like a lady.
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15. “Ding” = “That’s what she said.”
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16. No matter how much you shower, you won’t be able to get all that paint, dirt and glitter off, and it’s going to be OK.
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17. The cup game is harder than it looks.
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18. These are a great way to keep kids busy forever.
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19. It’s more difficult than you think to get kids to make a circle.
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20. Fellow counselors get more attractive as the summer goes on. Only to get less attractive in retrospect.

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21. When you’re not sure what to wear — tie-dye.
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22. Sometimes you have to get creative with the end of week awards.
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23. It is very important for everyone in your life to know that you are a camp counselor.

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24. When you’re engaged, kids will be as well.
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25. People don’t understand when you turn down a “real job” to go to camp.
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26. Camp is a real job.
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27. And you wouldn’t trade those memories for the world.
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