There are many, many stories that came out of a camp in Northern Ontario, nestled on the shores of Skeleton Lake. There were tales of pregnancy, missing campers, a camp director who bordered on sociopathology, and his wife, whose fear of onions was legendary within the Ontario camp circuit. No story however, evoked as much interest as the tale of the kitchen boy and the young camper.
It was 1973, or possibly 1974, and while the events have been bastardized, altered by time and fading memories, I will do my best to reveal the events of that fateful summer as best as I can remember it.
The kitchen boys, often thought of as the lowest form of camp staff, lived in a staff only dorm on the main road of the camp. Surrounded by all of the camp’s amenities, it became a hub of fun and games. Music was always playing, usually Yes, or Pink Floyd, or the Beatles. Drugs were rampant, and the aroma of marijuana permeated the surrounding area regularly. One day, a camper, a young female camper, arrived at the cabin window. Now, to be fair, fraternization between campers and staff was strictly forbidden, but neither the young camper, nor the head kitchen boy cared. They began talking, and over time, would sneak off and walk through the fish hatchery that bordered the camp grounds. There they discussed Gibrhan and Kerouac, Satre and Camus, and Ginsberg and Dylan. They spent hour after hour talking about life. When the kitchen boy looked at her, he was amazed at her beauty. She was a free spirit, a rebel, with a zest for learning. She walked barefoot, wore cutoff shorts, and a halter top that fit like a second skin, without a bra. She was rather well endowed, with breasts that gently bounced and floated as she moved, and had nipples the kitchen boy could not look away from. On one occasion, when they were down at the waterfront, she went into the water, and coming out, her pale white t shirt, was completely see through. And while it seemed that she never noticed the effect this was having on the poor kitchen boy, the sexual tension between them was evident to both of them, and everyone else who saw them together.
All summer, they were inseparable. They seemed to enjoy each other’s company more than the camp experience itself. Often times, it appeared as though they were the only 2 people there. The camp officials were convinced that the kitchen boy was engaging in sexual activities with this young camper. He was questioned, or rather interrogated on several occasions, with bright lights shone in his eyes, deprived of food and water for hours at a time, and many threats and ultimatums were given. Kitchen boy vehemently denied any wrong doing, and with his new found spiritual freedom, told them all to fuck off. Unrelenting, the young camper and the kitchen boy continued their relationship amid the turbulence and fear it was causing the camp administraton. On any given day, they could be found sitting under a tree, discussing poetry, or the rise of neosocialism. But never was a word spoken about her amazing tits and nipples. He wanted her, and he hoped she wanted him, but it had transcended the physical plain, or so they convinced themselves. Everytime he looked at her, he envisioned her naked. Others who were there that summer, had said that kitchen boy informed them that every conversation they had, she was completely undressed. In his mind. But the meeting of mind and spirit, the melding of souls had become more than enough for them.
At the end of the summer, the young camper returned to her home somewhere in Michigan, and the kitchen boy was informed by the camp director that he would never be allowed to return to the camp again, in any capacity.
Time passed, and there were a few reunions; a trip down to Michigan to visit her at College, a family trip with her family that allowed them to meet in Toronto, and a final visit to Toronto many years later. And every time they met, it was as if time had stood still. Each encounter, no matter how brief, felt like that wonderful summer. The sense of oneness, the meeting of spirits and souls, had not waned. It was just another day at camp in 1973, or ’74.
There are reminders of that summer, of that dalliance between 2 souls still left up there. Their names carved into a wall, initials carved into a tree, and the story of the relationship between the young camper and the kitchen boy is still being told, although most of the facts have been mutated over time. Some of us had wondered what became of these 2. Did they ever engage in sex? We decided it was best not to know. The depth of their friendship could only be compromised by a physical aspect. The sanctity of their relationship was best remembered as it was. I can only suspect that after all of these years, they have somehow stayed connected, still bonded by their spirits and their souls, and should they meet again, still sitting somewhere quiet, discussing poetry, and philosophy, amid an abundance of sexual tension, as the kitchen boy, listning intently, has his eyes fixed on the young camper’s nipples. Or maybe that’s just the hopeless romantic in me.