This post originally appeared on Nomadic Chick.
It all began, fittingly, on the first day of summer with a game called ‘tangled’, where everyone puts their hands in the center of a circle, grabs two random people’s hands and then proceeds to untangle themselves to make a circle as this is “team-building” and “creates friendships”. It was our first day as counselors at an American summer camp in up-state New York and we were wondering just what we had gotten ourselves into.
In the fray of hand grabbing, I felt one brush over mine, attempting to take hold, but I grabbed two other hands – one set belonging to the strong lacrosse specialist and the other to the as-nervous-as-me mountain biking instructor. I gave the mountain biking instructor a brief, nervous smile before listening to the Type-A personalities taking control of the predicament we’d been forced into. It vaguely occurred to me that there were boys and possibilities, but dashed it from my mind at the moment.
I wasn’t just a counselor, but had a specific job – radio specialist. After slaving away cleaning the winter dust and dirt, lugging an ancient 10 kg panel board and various other sound and computer equipment, I set up my radio shack on the edge of the boys-side of campus.
Every morning a curious creature would pass by the radio shack. He bounded not walked, and always seemed to gain everyone’s attention without actually trying, and best of all, he worked in the canteen as the cooking teacher on the edge of girls-side, so our paths crossed everyday.
Whilst setting up one day, a guy in a white and blue singlet bounded up the steps and poked his head inside and in a thick accent, a series of syllables passed his lips.
I probably looked like a dork with my mouth hanging open, confused, but I had no clue what language this strange man was speaking. I have problems understanding different English accents at the best of times?
After a wobbly, “uhrm… what?” he tried again.
“Do you have any Michael Jackson? Man in the Mirror?”
The accent was still thick but I understood and searched the music log before playing his request. He smiled, thanked me and introduced himself as Pod. Oh right, canteen creature. A seed of friendship had been planted that day. It then became a tradition to begin the day with Pod’s request. Always the same – a little bit of Michael Jackson or a bit of U2. And everyday he would sing his way to the canteen. Though I’d heard the Irish could sing, this guy could really sing. As the summer wore on, the counselors wore out and the true party animals in all of us emerged, or perhaps it was just the toll of living separated from our friends.
The small town of Monticello (population: 6,500) was packed each Friday night with 300 counselors itching to get away from their kids and get their party on. Monticello was where the gossip was created. Alcohol, to forget the responsibilities of the week and with the lack of separation when outside of camp, well, a girl can only stay away from the opposite sex for so long. With only two sleeping options in town, and no want to return home early from camp, we often packed 6… 8… 12 people to a room much to the delight of the owners.
One night, one group even managed to squeeze a tidy 20 people in a room designed for two… sleeping on the floor is meant to be good for your back, right?!
Every week, our group would head into Monticello and it would always begin the same. We’d start as a group, then peel off into our smaller groups of two or four. At the beginning of a night, Pod and I would not dare be near each other, but after a few drinks, some sneaky glances at each other across the dance floor, the law of attracting forces would come into play and we’d simply gravitate towards each other- usually at the jukebox. To me, he was the gorgeous foreign guy I had a secret crush on – a Mister Darcy from the Emerald Isle.
Pod and I seemed to build towards this one Friday. A group of us managed to sneak out before the Jewish Shabbat service held every week ended. We ran, literally, at the chance to beat the crowds to the town. Showering, nice clothes (not our dirty camp clothes), and doing our make-up. To quote the great philosophers, the Black Eyed Peas, “Tonight’s going to be a good night!”
Some of the boys had managed to get out early too, so with seven people piled in a car designed for four and a half, we drove into town. Thankfully, there weren’t too many cops in such a small town. That night was slightly different. We had time to relax and have pre-drinks, instead of racing out of camp at 8 p.m. when the service usually finished. So, with the classiest bottle of tequila we could find at Wal-Mart, the drinks flowed freely. By the time we hit the pub, we were all buzzing and unknown forces had guided Pod and I to spending most of the night together. Drinking, dancing – it was a magical night. As I stepped outside with a new round of drinks, something between us had changed and we stood next to a wall chatting, alone. The topic turned to kissing. Without much more than a “give me a kiss?” it wasn’t hard to let it happen.
My best friend who saw this small public display danced around Pod’s best friend singing, “I told you so, I told you so, I told you so!” She’d predicted something was going to happen for weeks!
Both of us were ribbed by others about the kiss – the group leaders on girls-side knew about it before I’d even gotten back to camp the next afternoon. (“What’s cooking in the kitchen Nicole? *wink wink*”.) But overall, it was a good thing. Stolen moments reminiscent of a Jane Austen novel began occurring all over camp – a hug in the canteen between activity periods; just hanging out more in public view in the radio shack; or an SMS or a passed note when one of us had an evening off, but the other didn’t. Our tables in the dining hall were next to each other so at times I’d slip him pieces of toast with Vegemite spread over it when the camp leaders weren’t on the war path.
When camp ended, we stayed separated. A group of the boys went north to Buffalo and then into Canada. The girls, well, we headed to Florida to work on our tans, of course!
In typical camp form, a group of us got together to take on the ultimate challenge – New York City. And baby, SoHo never saw it coming! Pod and I managed to meet up back in New York, but only when the sun was down because it was too hot for his Irish skin to handle (according to New York, a heat wave is above 30 degrees).
I was the only one in the group under 21, so after a few pubs we decided it was better not to push our luck and Pod said he’d take me home.
As we walked through Times Square, I had to stop to look at my favorite landmark for one last time. I stood there, dwarfed by the skyscrapers, amazed by the colors and staring up at the neon lights illuminating the city at 3 a.m., I felt his hands grip me around my waist and he leaned in to kiss me. With a smile, he snatched my camera and took a photo of us kissing in Times Square. So cliché, so corny, so absolutely perfect.
I also knew that since I was the one with the hotel room that someone would be invited for a ‘sleepover’ that night.
Some dream of a novel-worthy romance, full of stolen glances, whispered nothings and special moments away from the prying eyes of onlookers. Me? I’ve always poo-poo’d at such things, yet I still found myself in the middle of one.
Since I’ve returned home to Australia, we haven’t really kept in contact. I could blame time differences or being busy at school. I could also blame the fact that boys are horrendous at keeping up correspondence, but really I know it was just a summer romance.
I did learn a lot from my summer fling though. Thanks to Pod, and my friendship with another Irish girl, I discovered a desire to visit Ireland, a place that I had no real intention in visiting previously. I took a two-week trip to the Emerald Isle visiting Dublin, Limerick, Belfast and Derry and fell in love with the country, the history, and of course, the people.
This article was originally a guest post on Nomadic Chick
as part of her ‘Summer Chic Tales’ series.