By Darius Cowan, Managing Editor
This is a piece about when summer actually felt like summer instead of whatever this is. This weird period of Zoom meetings and cancelled plans, and staring at the same walls every day.
When the black boy with the brown eyes and leaves in his hair and face splattered with acne and ankle socks painted with mud walks into the camp cafeteria, there’s a scab on his elbow. Rain clings to his clothes. Lightning flashes in the door window behind him. It isn’t until the thunder rolls through the room that I realize we’ve all fallen silent. We have turned from the movie on the wall to stare out at him, framed against the storm, lean and wet and heaving as he wipes his nose with the back of his hand.
He was supposed to be dry, with us, running inside at the first call of a cloudburst and yet, here he was, drizzling on the floor, squelching, squeaking, shifting his weight, wiping his nose again with the palm turned upward, fingers curling, flared nostrils, sniffling. One by one the heads turn back forward. The counselor who has the remote presses play.
When he feels like he’s been forgotten, he begins to limp. I know it’s a limp and not a walk because I’m watching him. I don’t care about the movie. Right now I care about the boy, whose name no one remembers, who wandered off before curfew, who forgot to pack a rain jacket and probably paid for it by falling, who didn’t listen to the counselors and paid for it by falling, probably tripping as he ran back through the woods, quickly, hearing the sky stretch and yawn and open wide, the trees becoming copies of each other, the path fleeing into the forest where the land became a stranger, where it danced to the thunder and forgot itself in the storm, where a tree root became mobile and sudden and present where it wasn’t before, tripping a boy who wasn’t supposed to be there in the first place, and then the rest of the earth reached up to grab him but missed, just barely, and scraped his elbow instead, then tried to apologize but he was already running, already stumbling, already limping away.
He sits down next to me, smelling like dirt and grass and rain made from lake water, and tries to shrink, removing his shoes, his socks, tugs his shirt from his skin but leaves it on, lets it cling, brings his knees to his chin, his bare toes curling over the edge of his seat, and I stop looking. I decide to let him disappear in peace.
When the movie is over, and we file back to our cabins, I see him and the counselor, the blonde one who’s mostly legs, and she looks up at him, and her mouth moves, and she yells with her body, with her crossed arms and shifted weight and hard stare, as he apologizes for being braver than us.