I went to visit my friend Anthony today. Anthony and I met last year at a science research camp, which I attended along with Kieran. He went back to the camp this year, and I drove up there to see him today. We played poker with some kids from the camp this year and talked about how our years had gone, etc.
One thing we talked a lot about was last summer. The camp has changed, and we liked the glory days of summer research camp, when the residential assistants really didn’t care what we did so we just stayed up way too late, hung around doing nothing every night, and played a lot of poker. And, along the way, I met Lexi.
It was the first weekend of the camp and I finally decided that it was time to meet people. I’d spent the last week in my room, doing what George Quentin normally does: marathon TV shows. I’d met a few people on the hall, hung out with Kieran, and gotten to know Anthony fairly well. But most of the time I just stayed in my room.
My nightly routine was pretty simple. Chat with Kieran a bit if he was around after dinner, then go watch Big Bang Theory, do ten pullups on the pipe in my room, then go to bed. I got eight hours of sleep almost every night and woke up to Airbourne’s “Runnin’ Wild,” every morning. All in all, it was an uninteresting but nice nightly pattern.
On the first Saturday of the camp, the RAs took us to Six Flags. I sat next to Kieran on the bus. We talked with other people sitting around us, mainly others at the camp from the Academy. Upon arrival at the park I started walking around with him and a few other Academy kids. But after an hour or so, the group split up. Kieran and I eventually found ourselves walking around with Julia and Lexi.
Julia I knew from the Academy, and I was decent friends with her. We’d been in a class or two together, and we were decently good friends. We could, at the very least, be civil to one another. But I really didn’t know Lexi – all I knew was that she seemed to be out of my league. She was quite cute, and intelligence always adds bonus points. Plus, she had fantastic eyes. I was a bit infatuated, but I was also aware of the fact that I had absolutely no chance with her.
Sure enough, for the rest of the day I was ignored almost completely by Lexi (and, to a degree, Julia). At the time (and even now) it wasn’t something I was unused to seeing from girls. Most of the time, I hardly get a second glance. I’m simply not the kind of person that attracts a lot of attention, at least when I’m around people I don’t know very well. So I stayed quiet and didn’t say much, hovering in the group like an awkward invisible hummingbird.
The next week passed much as the first had. There were slight differences. After a few days of the second week, I ran out of episodes of Big Bang Theory, so I started spending time with other people. I went to Kieran’s room after/during my sets of pullups (I moved up from ten/night to twenty/night) and we talked a lot. I met more people than Anthony, though he was still one of my best friends there (and he still is one of my best friends from the camp!).
On the second weekend, our plan to go to a high ropes course fell through and the group went to Lake George instead. There, we spent the day walking around until we found an arcade and I organized a massive attempt to get enough tickets to afford a poker chip set. It was rather stupid, as I think we ended up dishing out about $50 worth of tokens to get a set probably worth $10, but we had fun getting the tickets. It was a bonding experience, since everyone helped out.
We started playing poker that night. After that, we started staying up later and later. Instead of watching a TV show, I joined the common room crew permanently. And, at some point, Lexi started noticing me. It was probably the fact that I was a loud leader of the poker tournament’s organization that she actually recognized my existence. Honestly, it was the most social I had ever been. In my entire life. I was confident (thanks, Tarik), loud, and people liked me. At the time, it was weird. But I liked it.
After ordering Chinese food at 1am one night and going to bed at about 3, I woke up the next day with a massive MSG hangover (yes, you can get those) and groaned my way through the day. Most of the camp was feeling the same way as I was, but thanks to a bit of strategically timed coffee I was fully back on my feet by the afternoon, when we continued our poker tournament (it had become an afternoon, evening, and nightly obsession) and was therefore one of the few players that afternoon, along with a few other people, Anthony, Kieran, and Lexi.
We played poker for a while before watching a thousand YouTube videos and finally deciding that it was “about f***ing time for a Green Day singalong,” in Kieran’s words. I was more than okay with this, so we blasted Green Day through my speakers and sang along.
Now, this was the first time I had really done any public singing. I usually sang along to music when I was listening along, but in public I never pretended I could sing. It would have been too embarrassing. But something about this setting felt safer. I felt like I was surrounded by, well, nerds, and wouldn’t really be judged for having no singing ability.
…and then I surprised myself, a little, a lot, by being fairly decent. I realized I could actually hit notes and do the right voices, as long as I knew the song well enough. I wasn’t a “good singer,” by any means, but I could certainly sing along to Green Day. Excited to keep pursuing this, I asked if we could switch to some Avenged Sevenfold music. Kieran was more than willing, and we put on “A Little Piece of Heaven,” a phenomenal track from the band’s title album.
The song is long, dark, and fun to sing. Kieran and I had a blast, even if no one else was really singing along. (Anthony pantomimed playing along on the air bass.) But as the song went on, Lexi got a funny, surprised look on her face. At the end, she said, “Huh. You know, I used to listen to Avenged Sevenfold a lot. Also… you’re really good.”
I knew she didn’t mean I was a good singer. That wasn’t true; metal and rock vocals are about the heart you put into them, most of the time, rather than how good your voice is and how technically skilled you are. But I appreciated the fact that she recognized that I had given this a real try, rather than a halfhearted attempt that might have been safer. And the fact that she had listened to A7X before… well, I was sold. And, apparently, so was she.
Lexi and I started spending nights sitting in my room (after poker), talking late into the early hours of the morning. When it got to about 2 in the morning, I carried her back to her room and dropped her off. Sometimes Kieran invited himself in, which was fine some of the time and wasn’t fine other times. I actually felt conflicted about this, since I was taking myself and Lexi out of the group and therefore depriving him of two friends to hang out with. But on the other hand, I had made it pretty clear that I liked her, and there was a lot of other stuff going on in the common room and nearby. It sounds insensitive and cruel, but he had other friends. It’s not as if I wasn’t spending time with him – I made sure I was hanging out with the whole group during the day. I never neglected my friendly duties towards Kieran or Anthony or anyone else – in fact, I think I spent more time with people than ever before in the third week (up to thirty pullups/night).
Over the third weekend, Lexi, Anthony, Kieran and I were inseparable. We must have listened to “Little Piece” fifty fuckin’ times. We raged through the ropes course together. We watched The Hangover and pokered it up. And, early in the next week, I finally kissed Lexi. It was my first time kissing a girl since Lucy, almost three years before, and was the final step in fully regaining my confidence from the Mogui episode. Tarik was alive and well, and George Quentin was back.
Our little not-really-relationship crumbled over the last week (forty pullups/night) for reasons that were complex and sort of involved Kieran but ultimately revolved around the fact that camp was ending and we weren’t going to stay together. But I knew it wasn’t my fault. I had done nothing wrong. And because of that fact, I held on to my newly reacquired confidence into my Senior year. (Not the pullups, though. Too bad. I probably should have continued doing those. I was getting pretty good.)
As always, thanks for reading.