One week after we moved from Louisiana back to Illinois, my husband arranged for us to go on a camping trip with friends.
Stop for a minute. Consider that timeframe. I was doing good to know where my deodorant was after a cross-country move, let alone have enough wits about me to pack for and execute a camping trip. I had already started taking college classes that week, with my first college test in five years coming up that Monday. After a minor melt-down from being overwhelmed, I pulled myself together, and we hit the road.
We showed up at about nine at night at the state park. I was anticipating wilderness, but as we drove back to the campsite, I realized it looked more like a cramped tailgate, with each campsite featuring a smoky pit. There were spacious sites that sat on top of a ridge, with a view over the valley that could have been in a camping commercial.
Not our campsite. Our campsite was downhill, smushed between two other tiny campsites and across from one of the more elaborate shanty-trailers. The smoke from all of the campsites rolled downwind to our space. Cujo’s friends asked how big our tent was: tiny, I told them. I had bought it with the intent of back-packing with it, so it was light and itty-bitty. They assured us that their tent was a two person tent, too.
Within three minutes, we had our tent set up, so we could watch as they pieced together their super-size McMansion tent. When they finished, they had a queen-sized blow-up mattress to inflate. Cujo and I had forgotten pillows, but we rolled my yoga mat to help cushion our sleep. I took a calming breath and went to the bathrooms, realized there was a man hanging out by the dimly-lit women’s door, and retreated. Cujo, being the chivalrous guy he is, went with me and waited while brushed my teeth. After all of that, we were all ready for bed.
Our tent was so hot that we immediately stripped off most of our clothes. Even nearly-naked, it was too hot to sleep. Not only that, but all of the smoke from the other campfires collected in our tent, plugging up my sinuses and making it tough to breath. I imagined Cujo’s friend, an early riser, coming over to wake us up and getting an eyeful of things I’d rather he never see. So we lie, squirming and pillow-less, listening to the campers pass our tent on their way to the road. Two hours in, Cujo broke.
“Do you want to get a hotel room and meet up with them tomorrow?” he whispered.
Yes, yes I did. We snuck out, but before we left we texted Cujo’s friend so that he wouldn’t worry when we weren’t there in the morning. When Cujo sent the text, his friend’s tent lit up, and an electronic rock jingle rang. And rang. And rang. We stood outside, helpless to stop it, as the single text lit up their McMansion tent with rock-and-roll strobe lights. We know how to make an exit.