One summer, presumably after Jazzercise, as our socialite mother was exacerbating the laurels of her gifted children with other equally motherly women, she entered into a conversation that I blame for the worst colon pains I have ever experienced. Allow me to set the stage
My brother, Andy, and I were Cub Scouts and then Boy Scouts, offering its members a myriad of fun summer activities. Sometimes it was fun. But mostly it was just gay spending the summer in knee-high socks and tight green shorts in a KOA look-a-like prefab campsite without even the occasional Girl Scout or Brownie to keep us company. So I complained a lot. Unfortunately, to my father's chagrin, I didn't last long in the Boy Scouts of America. But before this came to an end, the woman to whom I accredit with testing the limits of my bladder, suggested to my mom that Andy and I enroll in the summer camp of the century, Aqua Camp. Ah, how that name still rings the dissonance sound of nails on a chalkboard. She said her kids loved it, she raved about how great it was, but the truth is it was far more horrific than Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now.
The cabins smelled of wood rot and urine, a musk of pubescent body odor and old cotton sleeping bags. The campsite illustrated a series of design flaws, for example: the tattered curtains of the boy's showers faced a trail that served as the main artery of the camp. The boat dock and marina were built on the entrance to a swamp with sub-Arctic underground currents. Winning the freestyle relay race meant you first had to survive hypothermia. And the camp's only salvation, the snack shack, was positioned a good mile from any cluster of cabins. Even the athletic could barely make it back before lights out without regurgitating their Almond Joy or Milkyway. Fortunately, though, the counselors, hand-picked children of Attica guards, tortured the late arrivals before the entire cabin.
"Sweet bliss," undoubtedly thought our parents on that first quiet night at home.
Meanwhile, somewhere in the Sierras we cried ourselves to sleep anxiously awaiting the return to the comforts of home. Then morning came. I remember waking with a horrible thought, I had to go the bathroom. Now if not for realities of human digestion and the Aqua camp dirt they called food, I may have come out relatively unscathed. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
I remember walking quickly through the brisk morning air. Then jogging. Then sprinting at full stride. The pain was becoming intolerable, I could barely take it. My intestines were swollen, my will was strong, and thankfully I was nearly there.
My Keds pushed past the concrete stoop, my body slammed against the door. I was merely feet away from intestinal salvation. Across from me the row of stalls stood in an imperfect line of unpainted wood. "The gods must be smiling at me," I mumbled, noticing all hung vacant. I took no more time in thought and opened the first door. I gasped. Looking down I witnessed an unholy sickness left by many other campers in the same predicament, a toilet that had taken its toil: feces and toilet paper married for life. I was almost sick. Immediately my stomach fluids moved from bowel to backbite, deciding what door to use.
I too had to decide. Sweat burned my eyes. I broke my stare and moved to the next stall. It was worse. "Please God," uttered my superego. I framed myself in front of the third door, took a deep breath, and looked up at the dilapidated ceiling. I kicked open the third door. In the place where I had prayed to see a toilet stood only the remnants of copper pipe jutting out from the wall. I had been damned. I knew all too well what hells were to await me at this place called Aqua Camp.