Summer Camp part II

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We were three counselors and a head counselor for the subgroup of nine mentally and physically challenged female campers from age 25 to 69. From a previous post, you’ll remember that the head counselor was also my summer love. Seeing her lately reminded me of everything that I learned during those weeks which made me the physical being I am today.

 

See, I didn’t just fall in love with L-. My sexual attention was devoted to her, and she knew it, but my heart was all over the place.

 

At the camp, you have three categories of subgroups: autonomous, semi, and multi. Multi campers require constant attention. There’s a ratio of one counselor to one camper. Our nine campers were semi: they weren’t able to express their needs, but once you got to know them, you learned to anticipate them. Along with the simple but magical activities that we invented for them (theatre, crafts, bals- we danced with them by pushing their wheel chairs) we also provided daily care. I lost a lot of weight and had back aches: several times a day, we performed transfers: for example, from the bed to the wheel chair: you have to bend over the person while she’s lying on her bed, put an arm under her back and the other arm under her knees, lift her and place her on her wheel chair, and the maneuver is different for each camper because most of them have different skeletal deformations, so you have to make sure you don’t hurt them. Other transfers were from wheel chair to toilet seat (many many times a day) and back, but the hardest were transfers to the bathing tub because they required us to bend even lower. Those transfers made me love my body for what it had the strength to do. These simple acts made me realize how much I love the human body. It’s so far from what you could think- that I was ever interested in seeing naked women in a position of vulnerability and total dependency. No, never, and you could only understand if you were there. It’s the bond that we created. It’s not because they are mentally challenged that they don’t realize that you are stepping inside their intimacy when you are changing their diapers or giving them baths. And they let you in. And you have to deserve it and prove yourself up to the task.

 

During those moments, I learned to adapt myself quickly like never before. My favorite camper was the eldest: she was 69. Every morning I would wake up earlier so I could pick the camper I would provide morning care for, and I always picked her. See, she probably didn’t remember my name or didn’t really understand the words I spoke to her, but we had the simplest and most pure friendship. Every time I bent over her, she would stick her tongue out and lick my nose and laugh hysterically like if she just caught me off guard. Anyone who would stick their tongue out in direction of my face would probably get a slap before they even got near. But with her, I always felt it coming, and the other counselors laughed every morning- it was our little thing. Campers are not booksmart, but their communication skills are unique. The one morning that she didn’t lick my nose, I knew something was wrong. I didn’t hear her laugh once that day, and it worried me. I brought her to the doctor on the site and she found nothing was wrong. I gave her extra attention for the rest of the day, I played in her hair, I danced with her, and when we went swimming, I was the one who held her. The next morning she licked my nose and I knew it was better.

 

The human body is capable of so many things, and communicating is the most precious. Every counselor could tell you this; your body is a tool you have to use to make campers feel better. What happened with the campers had nothing to do with sexuality, yet, it was tender and affectionate. They looked forward to bedtime when we would stroke their hair and talk to them. For no other people I would climb on stage and pretend I’m a lion while I’m pushing a wheelchair and pretending the camper who’s in it is a mosquito I’m chasing while singing camp songs.

 

The heart is a muscle; once you use it, it grows bigger, it hypertrophies. And when you get back to real life, even if you ignore it for a while, it’ll never shrink back to the size it was before. I carry these women everywhere with me. That’s probably why I’m still so attracted to L-, the head counselor. Because she reminds me of everything I am at my weakest and strongest. And even though I’m not an emo lover anymore, even though I’m sometimes cold and act like a heartless bitch looking for clients, she knows I care. She’s the only one who knows me and sometimes I hate her for it.

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