Stuff I Learnt At God Camp Part Two:
Little Notes Can Lead To Big Blasphemy
When you’re on lunchtime juice duty at a two-week all boys Christian camp and your counsellor, a juice guzzling passive aggressive asshole, sends you to the counter for another jug of water with a hint of synthetic grape flavour, you take your time. Because the kitchen staff are chicks. Ladies. Young women. People, but with boobies. And sometimes… sometimes they looked at you. And then you had something to talk about for the rest of camp which, thank God, had nothing to do with God.
Even in the moderate heat of a Christian kitchen Juliette wore those sweaters specifically designed for the mid-80’s teenager, the ones they could wear over top of an up-collared rugby shirt and turned their torsos into amorphous brightly coloured blobs. She smuggled a short note written in half-inch loops to me during lunch on my third day of Boys Camp, 1985. Would I like to meet? So began a whirlwind romance which took place each and every day between the hours of 2.30am and 4am in a small enclosure called “The Corral”, where the evening fire-side conversions happened, and where skits were performed and sometimes marshmallows were cooked.
And there, with the faint hint of charred marshmallows and the still damp residue of God’s tears of Joy leftover from the conversions, we would lay down and look at a Quebec sky filled to overflowing with stars and galaxies. A year older than me, Juliette was fantastically cute, with a round face, big smile and huge eyes. During our first Corral date we held hands as we lay there, sharing hand sweat and whispering. It took three dates until we were kissing and I was under her three layers of Christian Fashion, touching her otherwise naked back… other than a some minor, and probably accidental tongue-touching towards the end, that was as far as the physical stuff went. But, nonetheless, God did decide to punish us… well, her.
Towards the end of camp we were getting a little cocky with the meeting times. At the same time, getting to the end of camp meant the counsellor’s started going on late evening or early morning raids. Mostly stupid shit, like two or three counsellor’s getting together and pounding frantically on a cabin to scare the children inside into wetting their sleeping bag or fall out of their second tier bunk.
As I watched Juliette walk away to the Kitchen People’s Living Area, her bum wrapped in those ridiculously high-waisted jeans 80’s era girls wore, and thinking to myself ‘yeah… there goes my woman’, I heard two men talking nearby. Some Superbad Mofo had messed with all the cabins around the Corral by basically sealing the doors shut using canoe paddles, and now the head maintenance dude and the Camp Director were discussing Earthly Punishment for such unGodly acts of absolute hatred for young, Christian boys. I was trapped… so I did the only thing I could do…
I put my hands deep in my pockets, pulled my shoulders back, smiled as wide as I could and walked towards them while whistling a hymn. What I didn’t see, however, is what They saw. A very happy 15-year old boy walking away from the Female Kitchen Staff Living Area at 5am. If it hadn’t been so close to the end of camp I’m sure they would have driven me to the bus station, explained to me how to pleasure old men for bus money, and left me there.
After camp Juliette and I phone dated for a couple of weeks, then we met once at a shopping mall in Montreal. We held hands for an hour or two then had lunch in a McDee’s where she… well, she prayed a little Thanks to The Lord for our Big Macs. Which, as I watched her, I thought was pretty freaking admirable and brave. God must be something real to her, I thought. Then I noticed eight or eighty people looking at us and that was pretty much it for the relationship… except for her punishment.
Two years later I was back at the same God Camp, but as a counsellor. I did two tours of duty looking after cabin loads of young dudes in a camp made up of over a hundred 9 to 13-year old boys and girls, during which I was kicked out of Camp five or six times for various unGodly shit. Like shaving cream bombs. During the second camp, Juliette came to work as a counsellor as well. Which I thought was cool. But then Not Cool because she wouldn’t talk to me. Then I found out every working girl at camp that summer had to sign a pledge to never be alone in the same room with me.
Juliette had, for nearly a year after we last ate hamburgers together, been treated as though she had committed some Grand Sin because our late night rendezvous’s had become known to the people in her Church. She hadn’t even, as punishment, been allowed to attend camp the year after we Corral Dated.
But the thing was… see, what do teenage girls really like doing above everything else if it’s not pissing off their Elders and dating guys they’re not supposed to? I could not figure out why for that entire summer every Staff Girl in that camp wanted to sit next to me during Chapel. Wendy, a stunning and sultry young woman, even faked an illness so she could kiss me. Outstanding. Wendy would send me little letters and notes and cards for a couple of years after that summer.
That was one of my favourite summers… and the last one I had without the symptoms of manic depression. What a way to leave sanity in style.