Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Summer of '96

When I was 12 years old, I begged my parents to let me be a junior counselor at a summer camp a couple hours away from town.

Shockingly, they said yes.

The sprawling ranch was in south Florida, near an Indian reservation. There were horses, goats, pigs, rabbits, and other farm animals.

The camp's mascot was a gigantic pot belly pig, Big C, who was gentle as a lamb. He would roam around the ranch, to the delight of the younger children. It was tradition for anyone who saw Big C to shout out "Big C comin'!"

When I was introduced to my bunkmate, Brittany, I was in complete awe. With sun-soaked blonde hair, a gorgeous face, and a bored expression, she was like a 13-year-old Heather Locklear. When she lit up a cigarette inside our cabin, blowing the smoke through a cracked open window, I knew she was the coolest girl I'd ever met in my life.

Even Brittany's background was glamorous, at least for a generic upper-middle class girl like me. Her father was in prison. Her mom was a bartender. Brittany said words like "fucking-A" and "bitchballs" which I had never heard anyone my own age utter aloud before.

She decided we were going to be best friends and I went along with it. Unfortunately, being bffs with Brittany meant I had to alienate myself from all the other junior camp counselors at the ranch. They all despised her. She never gave them the time of day and when she was forced to talk to one of the other girls, she usually spoke with condescending coolness.

"These other girls here are so fucking-A!" she would groan at night, flicking her cigarette out the window while simultaneously reading Seventeen. "Thank god I have you, Jen."

After a couple weeks of being at camp, Brittany convinced me to sneak out of the ranch almost every night. We would climb the bulky wooden fence and run out in the fields towards a cluster of large trees. Even though I was terrified of heights, I would allow Brittany to coax me up a tree and sit in the branches, gazing out at the stars or the faded lights of the Indian reservation in the distance. I would never climb up as far as Brittany. I would stare up at her, with envy, wishing I could be sitting on the top branch, with my blonde locks flowing in the wind.

One night, we huddled together on a lower branch, and watched in awe as a group of American Indian men, wearing nothing but jeans and cowboy boots, herded a pack of horses in the field right beneath our feet.

Everything about Brittany seemed so grown up. She might have been 13, but she acted 16, at least.

"God, just looking at that tree makes me horny," she once said, pointing to a weeping willow across the lake. "Doesn't it make you horny?"

I nodded enthusiastically, not having the slightest idea what she was talking about.

Another evening, she made me pierce her upper left ear. She already had her ears pierced, but wanted a third hole. Our laughter turned to shrieks of horror as I stabbed her ear with a pin. She had to wear her hair down for several days, to hide the grotesque swelling. Every time I apologized, she laughed.

With a week left into camp, Brittany's school friends showed up one night, with some older boys, in a rusty blue Mustang. Brittany left with them and didn't come back until around 3 a.m.

The next morning, I went to breakfast and immediately noticed something was wrong. Kids were crying. The older camp counselors, college students, were whispering to each other. Some of the camp leaders, the adults, were pacing back and forth, looking stunned.

When I found out the news, I was speechless. Apparently Big C had been slaughtered at the ranch that night. Someone, or some people, had attacked him and cut him open, spilling his guts out. His blood had been splattered and smeared all over the campground.

I felt dizzy with nausea that someone could be so cruel to such a beloved pet. Big C was such a gentle creature. He never would have hurt anyone. He loved everyone. He was so trusting. I went into my cabin and threw myself on my bed and cried. Who could have hurt Big C?

The police were called in. Camp was cancelled. With only a week to go, the ranch owner was so devastated, she couldn't even finish the summer. All events were cancelled.

Brittany had become so attached to me that summer, that she ended up persuading her mom to pay out-of-district tuition to send her to my middle school, about 45 minutes away from where she lived.

I wasn't terribly thrilled by the news. I had cooled our relationship since camp ended. For some reason I felt weird around her now. I didn't find her that entertaining anymore. I certainly no longer wanted to be like her.

Her transfer to my school eventually worked out for her, regardless of me. She instantly became close friends with the popular kids in my school. I rarely saw her in the months before I ended up moving to Nebraska.

In the back of my mind, I always knew what had bothered me about the night Brittany had come home. I always knew why I had severed our friendship without offering her a solid explanation.

The night Brittany had come back from hanging out with her wild friends, she'd reeked of an extremely strong, musky odor. I couldn't pinpoint what it had been at the time. But now, I'm almost certain: it had been blood.

But it hurt too much to put the pieces together. So, instead, I let them fall.

Once in a while, when I think of the summer of 1996, I don't really dwell on Brittany, or the friendship we once shared.

I simply remember lounging on a cold tree branch, feeling a soft breeze run through my hair, watching the horses gallop below in the star-freckled moonlight. Basking in a taste of stolen freedom. Wondering if that's what heaven felt like.


ravenlocks said...

Brittany sounds like a ____.

You can insert your choice of word there. I know of a four letter word that would describe her perfectly.

But what a horrible person. I can't even imagine what this person is like now as an adult, if at such a young age she was like that. Geez. But even though this was a sad story, you wrote it in such an innocent and beautiful way. I really am in awe of the way you write :)

RIP Big C!



sherene said...

Awww so sad for BIG C:(

Miksu said...

awful :( But be glad you didn't end up being bff's with her for the rest of your life!

Anonymous said...

How heart touching this is, is almost overwhelming. I know the feeling of wanting to be just like someone, but deep down knowing they are.. evil. Lol. Poor Big C. :(

Shannon said...

Your writing is exquisite, Jen.

I literally read this on my toes, wondering what was going to happen next. I got chills towards the end.

You're writing novels on the side, right? RIGHT?

s said...

what a really mean friend. =( Im glad that you are not near her now, and around more positive. on a brighter note, I love the images and my fave is all of the friendship bracelets! =) xO!

starla said...

Great story, you should write it as a short story or even it could be the basis of a novel. Problem is, it's difficult to know what Brittany was a bout. But that makes it more interesting.

Bunny Moreno said...

I swear I felt like I was reading a book-you are such an amazing writer. When I grow up I want to write as well as you do!!!

On that note, what a crazy summer! I had a summer at a camp in '99 but I was a counselor. Lots of memories of that place.

I have to ask-do you know what happened to Brittany???


Josie said...

That is so creepy. I swear, you must make this stuff up.
xo Josie

emily said...

Wow your writing is simply amazing, I started reading and couldn't stop! And I'm glad you parted ways with Brittany, I can't imagine what kind of person she is like today.

Couture Carrie said...

Oh my god what a horrifying story, but so beautifully told. You have a real gift, darling.


Bonnie said...

Whoa, dude. She sounds like a piece of work. Hopefully, her life has improved since then, and maybe she has found some stability.
Twitter: @GlamKitten88

Barry said...

This is saddening in many ways, yet so well told. I love the way you write Jen.

duffy said...

Fantastic writing. Be careful, though.. I could see someone stealing this and turning it into a Based on True Events indie film!

Blond Duck said...

Bawling now.

JustMe said...

Girl, this story is pretty damn FABULOUS. Not like, the actual events -- my heart hit the floor thinking about that poor pig -- but how you told it. And the pictures you used.

You have REAL talent and should do more of these literary collages. I LOVE them.

Meri said...

Loved reading this and getting a glimpse into that time of your life. You write like you remember it so vividly, I love that. I think even if you and she weren't meant to be great friends you probably both learned a lot about eachother/yourselves (as cheesy as that sounds) and then you knew about your own integrity. On an unrelated note, I'm bringing back (well, I guess I never used it, so I"m bringing out) "bitchballs" hahaha

Mary Jo at TrustYourStyle said...

This story just kills me. So beautifully written, I could just weep over Big C.

p.s. vintage Etro tweed sounds like a wonderful Fall obsession! Hope your allergies get better!

xo Mary Jo

Rebecca said...

Totally incredible writing! I was reading this and was so completely interested right to the end. (Sometimes is is quite hard to keep me interested!) Totally amazing! So sad for Big C :(


Cafe Fashionista said...

Blergh! Camp was always something that I loved, but I could never stand the people who labeled themselves 'head honcho' of the entire experience.

P.S. Alloy might have something similar to the bag I featured yesterday. I was at Forever 21 about two weeks ago, and didn't see anything like it - but that could change. :/

Ramblings of a Redhead said...

Your writing is inspiring, so beautiful! Thanks for sharing. RIP Big C!

Mouthwash said...

Wow. Brittany sounds like something beyond trouble. To do something that cruel to an innocent animal is evil. There's no other word for it. I'm glad that you got out of that friendship while you still could!

David Macaulay said...

Anyway when I skim read this I thought this was a great post but resolved to read it properly and now I realize it's a totally awesome post - in that you get this girl's character across so well and then there's this dark twist at the end. Way to go J.

A BRIT GREEK said...

Oh man, poor little Big C! Brilliant writing Jen... as long as there wasn't a Single White female kinda ending at High school... that would have been uber creepy.

A BRIT GREEK said...

Oh man, poor little Big C! Brilliant writing Jen... as long as there wasn't a Single White female kinda ending at High school... that would have been uber creepy.

Mimi said...

oh, wow! but i'm glad to hear that you only remember all the good stuff about that summer now. :)

<3, Mimi
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Fashion Tales said...

Wow, good Lord no! Big C! What a horrific story, but amazing for you to share this with us. I used to enjoy camp, but not one like that! Yites!

Wishing you a great weekend dear! -xx

The Dainty Dolls House said...

Poor pig, how terrible!! xx

Movies on my Mind said...

My goodness me, I got my driving licence that summer! You’re a Generation Y child!

creativefashionglee said...

I think the girl has some hatred or something, or it could be with her upbringing. I don´t think she would be a good influence to you. I´m glad you severed your friendship with her early.

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Arielle-HumblePieVintage said...

OMG. Do you remember her last name or have you looked at her fbook or talked to her? I'd have to flat out ask her if she killed the pig. What kind of cruel crazy bitch would do that? She already sounded wild doing all those other things at 13, but killing a pig with her friends would bring her into like..serial killer territory. Weird.

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