I never unholstered the camera. I didn't take Pinky. There was no cell phone signal. Nobody would tell me what time it was. Ever. But I did it. For the first time in my life, I camped for two days and two nights. And I loved it.
Not everyone would call it camping. There were, after all, hot showers and air conditioned sleeping quarters. There were grilled steaks and home made salsa and breakfast burritos. There was grill-steamed corn on the cob and marinated pork chops. There were movies in the DVD player. There were conversations like this:
Me: Do we have enough beer?
Jae: We have eight.
Me: [Loud, dramatic gasp, my eyes bugging, one panicky hand clutching reflexively at my chest.] Eight BEERS?!?!
Jae: No, cases.
I knew things were going to go well when I discovered, upon arriving at camp, a brand new copy of this book waiting just for me. I found the time to read it cover to cover, too (and I loved it, though it wasn't exactly what I had expected--a collection of musings, really). I took a two-mile hike along with, for a short time, a doe, and made my very first campfire roasted 'smore (SO good).
FurGirl was beside herself to be included on her very first ever vacation and generally dissolved into a jumpy, goobery fool mess when any camper came anywhere near her. She was only completely herself while leading the way on a trail or defending her camp--by big-girl barking ferociously at those strange people lurking just outside the fire light--or sleeping, which she did on a bed to herself curled on her Harry Potter blanket in splendid air conditioning near pretty sun-kissed girls.
There were boat rides. On Sunday we cruised to the infamous rock quarry, floating singles bar of the LBL. As we rounded the bend and the inlet came into view we could see boats of every description in every direction, so many that it looked like a huge marina.
The driver of our boat turned to me and said,
"Look, Suzanne! Dairy Queen!"
She referred, of course, not to the Dairy Queen in Paducah today (a brown box on the corner), but as it was during high school--a long cruisable drive-in that we used to circle endlessly as we inhaled car exhaust fumes and cigarette smoke, my tall Sonic cup usually spiced with something sweet and alcoholic.
Today, the rock quarry bulged with boats and crotches, many of the vessels tied to each other in long bobbing rows that adventurous boys effortlessly traversed with the sure-footed steps of mountain goats.
We entered the quarry slowly and floated by everyone, Dairy Queen style.
There were near naked girls gleaming with oil sprawled suggestively on towels and bare-chested boys holding beer coozies. The sun glinted off everything.
I immediately began to feel light headed which could have been attributed to the sun, or my own coozie, or the air, so thick with pheromones that I imagined they probably weren't dissipating as usual but rather bouncing back and forth off the tall rock walls.
We cruised by big boats and small boats and pontoon boats with elaborate stereo systems that churned out loud rap music that tanned sweaty girls in the barest of bikinis used as an excuse to gyrate their hips at everyone as the sun slowly cooked us.
Many of the bobbing men had perfected the art of what I came to think of as the "thousand-yard sex stare". It was a way some of them had of looking--silently, and preternaturally still while projecting, mostly from behind sunglasses even, a predatory look of such intense sexuality and frank invitation that it could be felt from many boats away. I imagined this technique takes years of boating excursions and beers (not to mention practical experience) to perfect.
Someone said, "Look! The jumpers!"
I looked up, shielded my eyes from the sun and could see a group of teenagers standing high up near the edge of the tallest quarry wall daring each other to jump into the water some thirty feet below.
I know teenagers have been doing that for decades in that spot. I knew my own son was one who had leaped into the deep water below.
This thought made me light-headed again.
The crowd at the top of the wall suddenly parted to reveal the latest dare-devil, this time a shapely biscuit brown girl in a white two-piece suit with bold pink flowers and a thick brown ponytail. She was clearly trying to get up her nerve while the others egged her on.
We sipped our fast-warming beer and stared up at the unfolding mini-drama as our boat slowed to a stop. We were too far away to hear any of the conversation, but we didn't need to. We could see emotions tracking across the girl's face like a fast-moving weather pattern: fear, uncertainty, determination, hesitation, and then they would all repeat again in exactly that same order.
"She won't jump," I said, suddenly having a feeling about it, "hand me a beer," I added.
Finally, as we continued to stare, she faltered completely, stepping away from the jumping spot.
"Told ya," I said as we began to ponder and discuss our next move--tie off? Back to camp? Cruise on?
Someone said, "She's back!"
And there jumper girl was again, but this time with a dark-haired curly-headed boy standing beside her, his tan so dark that his teeth shone a startling white against it. His belly was flat as a washboard. Handsome. After a moment, the pair clasped hands.
"They're going to jump together!"
We could see the crowd of urgers around them lean in, intensifying the peer pressure.
At the appointed time, the boy charged forward--one, two, three long running steps toward the cliff, the girl staying behind.
"You're right, she's not going to jump," someone said.
But then, just as the boy launched into the air and disappeared over the edge, she did begin to run--fast now--and she did jump far out over the ledge, she hurled herself up, over, and down.
I watched as she plunged into the water, but looked away before she resurfaced.
I knew she would. And I knew this would be only the first of many times she would hurl into the abyss after a boy.
But not by herself.