For most people, there is a bubble in which they feel safe. There is a bubble that surrounds them and their loved ones and inside that bubble, nothing terrible can happen. For me, that bubble is Camp Seafarer for Girls– well, it is most of the time. I’ll get tell you that story later, first, I’m going to tell you a little about this place I call home. It’s June 20, the Saturday before Father’s Day, 2009. My mom has packed my sister and me each duffle bags full of outfits in ziploc bags sorted by day to last us our first five days away from home and her.
We pile into the car, trying to fit ourselves around the duffle bags and settle in for the three-hour drive to a hotel in Havelock to stay the night. Once we arrive at the hotel and see that it has a pool, Sinclair and I beg our mom to let us go swimming because “Moooom! There are other kids swimming! ” Eventually, she gave in and Sinclair and I donned our new bikini’s and went down to join the other kids in the pool. I, being the friendly child I was, sparked a conversation with each child in that pool and found out that many of them were going to the same place we were– Camp Seafarer for Girls.
In 1982, My mother’s father, who was a pilot, flew her down for five weeks spent at this place that I would grow to call my first home and my bubble and now my mom was passing her experience on to us. My sister and I woke up before the sun had a chance to wipe the sleep from his eyes and ran to the elevator to grab a miniature box of cereal from the lobby to scarf down in the car between excited questions. From Havelock, it’s about a fifty-minute drive that seemed to last forever until we started to see signs welcoming us to the Camp 1 Crayons, Camp 2 Crew, Camp 3 Belles and the Camp 4 Tribe.
As we got further down the dirt road, our excitement grew swelled, our breath quickened, our hearts started to beat out of our chests, almost as if, even then, we knew that this was the start of something amazing. We turned made a sharp left turn down a dusty driveway and our gray Honda Pilot became one of many in a growing line of cars. A line of women in navy blue shirts, some carrying clipboards and some carrying bags of red hard candy begins to come through the gates to greet us with an enthusiastic, “Ahoy there! One of the women comes bounces up to my mother’s window and gives her a handful of the red candies and another comes up and asks for our names. “Sayer Kirk and Sinclair Kirk. K-I-R-K. ” My mother says, spelling our last name out of habit. “Sayer will be in the Camp 3 Belles and Sinclair will be in the Camp 1 Crayons. When you drive through the gates, just keep following the signs. ” The woman said. Once we pulled through those gates, I knew that I was home.
A girl from my cabin came over to talk to me, “Hi, I’m CC. What’s your name? I was so excited to be at camp that| stumbled across pronouncing my own name, “My name is S-SSayer. Where are you from? ” “I live in Charlotte! ” CC says, smiling a mega-watt smile. CC and I take the IT bus, a small bus with PVC pipes over the top that spray water on riders on hot days, over to the Near Side, the side with all of the Sea activities, where we would spend most of the activity period at Creative Arts making perler bead bracelets and barrettes. Once those five days were over, I didn’t want to leave, my sister and I were the last ones of our friends to get picked up and we didn’t mind because we never wanted to leave.
When we got in the car, we asked our dad if we could go back for the two-week session that would start the following Sunday. Over the school year, CC and I talked on the phone every night. Thad her home phone number memorized after about a week. There were some days when we would talk multiple times a day. That’s how I am with camp friends, they’re my best friends, I talk to them all the time but sometimes it gets to the point that I pull away from my friends at home. Remember that story I said I was going to tell you later? Here it is. Fast forward four years later, and I am a Camp 2 Toucan in Cabin 21.
Nothing has changed a bit, the Neuse River has the same diluted salt-water smell that everyone refers to as “The smell of Neuse Juice,” the frogs and bugs play the same lullaby every night to help me drift off to sleep alongside a chorus of fans, the grass is still stiff under my feet and I am still ever so cautious to not step on a sand spur. On June 18, upper Camp 2 is called to the Swim Lake to be swim tested for our swim bands– Red for the Beginner swimmers, Black for the Intermediate swimmers, and White for Advanced swimmers– and to be placed into an instructional swim class.
While standing in line with my sister, listening to all of the conversations drifting from gaggles of bikini-clad eleven and twelve-year-olds, a person runs past us, who is… different… from the others. This person runs by yelling with almost too much enthusiasm, “I like knives!! ” In my mind, “I like knives” translates to “be friends with me, I’m completely fine! ” So I did, this person, Swan, is still my best friend, five years later. Swan was in the building next door, Cabin 20, and after that day at the swim lake, neither of us hung out with people in our cabins that much.
Instead, we were inseparable. We were coincidentally placed in the same instructional swim class and that allowed us to spend even more time together. We spent most of our time at creative arts that summer, neither of us were really that athletic so we stayed away from activities like Athletics and Tennis and Golf. Swan can sing, God can they sing, I, on the other hand, cannot. They have spent years trying to teach me but that first year, we decided that we just hear things in different keys.
That first year was the start of many traditions for us, Swan losing their money; sharing popcorn with a ton of popcorn seasoning on it, candy, usually snowcaps, and a soda at the movie on Long Cruise and me paying for all of it; sharing an oreo blizzard at Dairy Queen; buying each other something while on Long Cruise but alternating whose turn it was to get the other something, or whoever hadn’t lost their money; sitting together on the bus talking about anything and everything; Swan doing the talent show, and me losing my voice after screaming so much once they finished singing.
That summer wasn’t all peaches and cream, that summer, a girl in my cabin decided that she hated me enough to tell me to kill myself. Tam standing on the pier with a group of girls from my cabin, we are all laughing. Some girls are holding pieces of rope to look like they are practicing knots any time a counselor walked by. We gossip about Seagull Boys, we try to translate the flags on top of the Bridge to find out what’s for lunch and then Talia, as jealous as Aphrodite herself, Lilly Pullitzered, and Jack Rogered, held up a piece of rope and cackled, “Hey Sayer!
A rope would make a really fashionable necklace, especially if you tie it from the ceiling! ” POP! This was the first time my bubble was popped and would not be the last. What did I do to her? Why me? The bubble around Talia and the other girls stayed in tact while I was struggling to survive outside of the safety of my own bubble. The wood of the pier under my feet seemed to grow hotter as the laughs of my cabin mates filled my ears, “Good one Talia! ” “Yeah, Sayer! ” Iran down the pier, that was one of the only rules of the pier: don’t run.
I was never one to break the rules but that day, I needed to get away from from the sneers and the cackles and the praise being showered upon Talia. I run and run until I see Swan standing in front of the creative arts hut, they notice me crying and just hold me. For awhile, they don’t ask what happened, they don’t say anything until I say something first. “Talia. ” Sob. “Talia just told me. ” Sob. “She just told me that a rope would make a really fashionable necklace. ” Sob. “Especially if I tied it from the ceiling. Swan tells me that I have to say something, I can’t just sit on it and let things like this happen, they say I have to tell someone. I told my CILT, Camper in Leadership Training, what had happened but she didn’t do anything, she told me to brush it off, but Swan held me and told me that everything would be okay. After that happened, I spent even less time with my cabin and even more time with Swan. In the Mess Hall, we would sit on the sides of our tables that were back-to-back so that we could talk to each other and ignore our cabin mates. That was the first time that I ever wanted to leave camp.
The following school year was really hard, I didn’t really have any friends at home but I didn’t reach out to Swan until I was in a GAP in Wilmington and “Payphone”, the song they sang at the talent show, came on and I texted them. Their reply was, “People still think of my godawful singing??? ” | replied, “Yes!! And it’s not god-awful by the way. ” As soon as I got home from spring break, I called them and talked to them for the first time since Camp. I remember sitting on top of my loft bed, leaning over the side, because I have never been able to sit still while I’m on the phone, and hearing their voice for the first time in months.
And then they started coughing and it turns out, they were choking on lasagna. This has become an inside joke of ours that I hope never fades. Since 2012, the words “Hey Sayer! A rope would make a really fashionable necklace! Especially if you tie it from the ceiling! ” have echoed inside my mind, bouncing from one side of my skull to the other. They leave divots in my skull where my insecurities lie and give my self-confidence a blinking “EXIT IN CASE OF EMERGENCY” sign to follow. “In case of Emergency, find the nearest exit and exit in an orderly fashion.
All exits are marked with a blinking red sign. Swan is my best friend, they have been there for me every time my bubble popped. They were there when Talia told me that a rope tied from the ceiling would make a really fashionable necklace, they were there when I received death wishes from one of their friends and was later punched in the face, they were there when some of my only friends at home left me, they were there when I was sexually assaulted last year. Each time the familiar feeling of the bubble popping enters my chest, they are there with a bottle of bubble solution and a bubble wand to blow it back up. 5 OF 5