The day before I left for camp, my therapist asked me—point-blank—if, given the chance, I would have sex before marriage. Just like that. I wanted to be offended at the given the chance part, but truth was she was the only person who knew—or to whom I would ever admit—that I hadn’t even kissed a girl. And here she was asking about sex.
I slouched into the overstuffed chair, thought about it. Thought about God—what it would mean if he existed and I did it, or if he existed and I didn’t, or if he didn’t exist at all. I thought about his judgment and I thought about Erika naked. I thought about the way she bent over, not with her ass but her knees, daintily, the way she seemed to float when she went down to pick up a pencil or a rock or a soccer ball. I thought about the way she moved—with grace—and I wondered if God had any left for me.
I don’t know, I answered. Maybe.
Erika was from Santa Rosa. We went to camp together. Week five every year. Before that, it was week three. She with her church. Me with mine. It really was remarkable the way we found each other year after year, especially considering there were six weeks of camp, six opportunities to get the dates wrong and miss out. Maybe our connection had something to do with God, if you believe in that sort of thing.
You’d think someone like me who went to camp each year would be a bit more devout, but I wasn’t too sure about any of it. There was always this moment, usually the last day of camp, when everyone gathered underneath the redwood canopy or by the creek with the Coho salmon or up at the hill by the old wooden cross, this moment where I absolutely did believe in God, but then something would happen a week later to undercut all that, and I’d be left questioning all over again.
The only certainty was Erika. Over the years, she went from being that tall girl with the pink barrettes to the girl who draws with me during free time to my camp-best-friend. Then around freshman year, her body suddenly changed in a way I didn’t understand but made me uncomfortable, and we stopped talking, until, finally, last year, we were friends again. A relationship blossoming one week at a time. One year at a time.
We shared secrets. Big ones. I told her about my panic attacks and how I was wrongly placed on a 72-hour suicide watch even though I never thought of killing myself, and she said you better fucking not all angry, and I felt loved. That same summer, she told me when she was at the mall, she saw her mom kissing someone other than her dad. Then last year when we started talking again, she said her parents were separating.