In a hauntingly ironic way, this idea came from a person who no longer considers me a friend because I expressed my tough love and said, “You need to get your life together.” Since then, we’ve not spoken… And right now I confess my sin of stealing this idea of ours and making it mine:
It’s the night before the big day and I just can’t sleep. Lying face up in my bed, I see my fan swooshing one paddle at a time. Tiny little microbursts of wind hit my face as I conclude Guess I’m not sleeping tonight. How could I? With the events of tomorrow all revolving around me – a birthday couldn’t even accomplish this attention – the excitement makes makes my heart pump out of my chest nonetheless. I sit upright and scan my dark room. My eyes adjust and soon enough the silhouetted sight of rectangles and squares becomes a blue filtered image of my overstuffed suitcase, my sleeping bag, my toiletries, and my soon-to-be constructed tent. Still propped up in bed, I further my depths into an owl’s life and stair at my sheets as my toes bump through the cloth and stand like the remains of some ancient ruins. My heart is still pumping… and I’m excited and nervous for what tomorrow has in store for me.
5:00am – Somewhere in the woods with a lake next to an open glade.
My tent is purposefully set right in the middle of the site. I stand there like a proud and arrogant hero with fists on my hips and legs spread confidently. The ground below me becomes one with me and suddenly an inner post humanistic sentiment overwhelms every fiber of my body into that of a man whom conquers every element of nature around him. In this moment, I’m invincible up until the little voice in my head whispers God, you’re an arrogant fuck. Snapping out of it, I become a normal person mixed within the very confines of average life that happens to be placed in this beautiful spot of land.
The first bus arrives. Sheer excitement fills me with bubbly joy. Which friend group is it? But of course, I know who it is. Between rowdy jumping and uneven surfaces below the wheels, the bus bounces up and down in questionable ways. High bass rap music fills the woods with E40 rapping and “nigga” this and “nigga” that. Nature is disturbed and the birds quickly fly away god forbid the sound waves come and wipe out their existence. The squirrels and rodents run god forbid their food gets stolen by E40 and his pre -hibernation walnut cravings. I begin to chuckle as I already know what is to come. The doors swing open and smoke spills out after as testosterone-heavy footsteps storm out the doors and claim the land under their feet. My fraternity has arrived and I greet them heartily as the pledges – whom have no name to me yet – begin to set up the tents god forbid they get dropped. A solo cup is handed to me and I catch up with my chapter family while beginning a witty banter with some of the members. The humorous liveliness of my fraternity radiates throughout the woods as another truck begins to pull up.
Which is this? Of course, my film friends have arrived as you can tell by the GoPros attached in the most perspective baring places on the car, leading for an epic montage sequence to come. Nerds, millennials, and awkward geeks alike – they jump out of the truck as I greet them as well. Which should they focus on first? The excellent photo opportunity of golden hour as the sun rises up? Or the instinctual necessity of having shelter like regular human beings? The predictable answer is what they choose as they pull out their 70Ds, portrait lenses, and various camera mounts in the sheer excitement of turning that very second into the most important and infinite moment of history. The artistic nature of them and the party savvy group behind me at first do not mesh together for they are complete polar opposites. However, after capturing golden hour’s majesty within the lenses of their so patiently invested technology, the two groups grow accustomed to each other and everything begins to feel natural.
Then, another bus – this time a larger and even more advanced bus – comes driving down the path. As the bus nears, you can hear musical numbers of cheery fashion sung by the diaphragms stuffed within. With limited air, they still manage to hit the high notes and long periods of singing without any need for fuel. The bus pulls up and everyone focuses their attention on the anomaly as if a spotlight from God shined down on them . Like a clown car, drama kids upon drama kids come pouring out more bountifully than when Moses beat the rock with his staff to make water. Like gas molecules, they fill the camp with a cheesy, over dramatized performances of enthusiasm and bounce from person to person, object to object trying to harness every facet about them – just in case they’d have to act like them or do an impersonation of one of them in the near future.
The site is more lively than ever as more and more cars pull in. From old elementary school friends to odds and ends of all grades, they claim space on the soon to be occupied space of the glade. The Hillel coworkers and commoners squeeze in. The family friends make claim to their positions. My best friend and his friends from his Jewish high school make their way through. My old temple confirmation class finds its place as well as they soon realize that there are truly more Jews in this mix than they expected. As the Jews soon realize, they all know each other – as all Jews seem to know each other on an international level – the exact social atmosphere that I envisioned comes to life. All the tents surround mine in a perfect circle. The brothers of my fraternity are making mixed drinks and passing them around. The cinema ensemble is clicking away and comparing lenses. The theater kids are conversing, standing on park benches and taking away the spotlight as they harmonize their booming tenor, baritone, and alto voices together. Everything is exactly as I planned and not even my awkward friends are being excluded.
The CITs from the summer of 2011 come up in their bus too. My 68 beloved comrades, with the four advisors, come dashing out as they’ve had experience in these woods before. Knowing the lingo, they begin to assert a sort of dominance while deepening their inner circles with every breath they take. The commotion grows among them as they mesh with all friend circles of mine and hammer their pikes into the grounds for their shelters. The event is brewing faster and greater than I imagined.
One spot remains vacant, though, as I wait for her. I’ve waited to see her for so long. She is so great that she has her own spot reserved. But even after inviting her and sharing all the details with her, I know she will not come for she has actual important worldly things in line for her. And here I am… occupying space and existing in useless ways that won’t matter.
“Hey. Hey Chaz. You there?”one of my friends snaps me out of it as they see me stare off.
The commotion brings me back to life and the music aligns my heart rate to tempo. I’m back in it as there are nearly too many people to possibly say hi to all at once. This festival of friendship begins to mesh soundly until I realize there must be organization or else we all lose the point. I stand up on a table, ask the drama kids to get off the poor abused platform, and turn my hands into a microphone: “May I have your attention, please? May I have your attention please?”
“Will the real slim shady please stand up?” one of the audience members banter.
The crowd laughs and begin to quiet down.
“Everyone. It is great to see your faces here! Thank you all for coming, ” I announce with pride, “This weekend’s events – as seen by the various facebook invites – is called The See’s Candy Camping Trip. The See’s Candy Camping Trip is meant to bring everyone together inside one camping trip in order for all my friend groups to officially meet and become one. United we stand. Divided we fall. In doing so, this random assortment is meant to resemble a See’s candy package. So as chocolate truffles have mixed with a bag of assorted lollypops at one point, I have gathered my old middle school band geek friends with my little league baseball team!”
The audience looks amongst themselves and notice the mismatched pairs of friends standing next to each other. Neither have anything to do with each other nor anything in common, and begin to laugh at their shared juxtaposition.
“That being said, I want each and every one of you to turn to someone you have never met and introduce yourselves. Break these cliques! Meet new people. Exchange contact info!
The cluster of heads and shoulders surrounding me turn to each other with enthusiasm shaking each others’ hands and exchanging optimistic small talk that cracks the surface of strangers. In unison, they all seem to be actually uniting. Even the people on opposite sides of the tent make an effort to reach people on the other side; like if eastern Berliners were finally seeing western Berliners for the first time. It was promethean. It was foursquare. With peckish ambition, it was planned perfectly. For the final touch, I reach into my pocket and pull out a small remote control – a grey oval with a solid red button. My thumb, which has anticipated this moment since my brain had construed it, presses down hastily.
Cue music. A vibrating chopping sound of helicopters begin to noise pollute the area. The animals in the distance hear it and run god forbid this man-made machine ruins all of their natural habitats alike. The birds from the opposite side of the lake screech away, catching everyone’s attention. Inside, I feel my heart race as I do my best to hide my mischievous smirk. Die Valkyrie makes its way in sound waves and pierces the ear drums of everyone in the camping glade ever so slightly, like Apocalypse Now. Helicopters, military grade, come rushing out with large wooden crates dangling from their bellies via steal chords. They swoop around and do laps around the area sizing up their target zone. One helicopter lowers itself and begins to sink to a lower elevation. The crowd cheers, jumping up and down.
“No camping trip is complete without such accommodations!”
The first helicopter lowers itself to the appropriate altitude and dispatches the first crate and dashes off. With a loud crash, the crate hits flat on the ground, on the shore of the lake, and opens up revealing the three ATVs stored inside. The whole audience begins to applaud and cheer. The next helicopter comes in with another big crate and releases it, revealing a set of jet skis on standby.
“At your disposal – keys should be kept in storage compartments of the vehicles. Knock yourselves out!”
Quickly everybody begins to rush in. Die Valkyrie only inspires their rush to quicken as they begin to argue and fight over the rides. At first its all playful. Truly breathtaking to realize that all my plans had worked and that dreams really do come true. If you believe just hard enough, anything is possible.
But then I notice something. Within my crowd, I notice very familiar and ominous face… My bully from elementary school. He shouldn’t be allowed here. All those times he called me fat. All those time he shamed me by calling me “Watermelon” and “Elephant” and “Tire belly”. All those times he proved me disabled via glutton by outracing me and bragging about it to my face. Blood begins to rush through my neck, tensing it with stress. He lurks and sifts his way through people, blending in to make his kill. His poison is tainting the pure element of this day. Suddenly, I spot another bully – one who I remembered for calling me “kike” and “penny picker” and in general used sarcasm to make his point clear about how he felt about Jews. My face goes red with anger. Why are they hear? How I want to jump off this bench and pounce on him and beat his face until he’s concave. My fists clench shut as my veins bulge. Everything around me seems to disappear and go black. How dare they sneak into this establishment. One bully, that of a muscular stature, is spotted by the Skis and ATVs. How unfortunate for my past self who received eight punches to the back of the head from him. My past self was done that day. That was the closest to every being knocked out. While everyone’s sin of greed displays over the vehicles, this masculine bully shoves his way through the crowd – a discomforting knot twists in my stomach – and makes it to the ATV. He throws himself over it, kicking one of my friends in the face and puts the key in the ignition. The engine roars and the lights flicker on and everyone begins to shout at him. Killing two birds with one stone, he has burned and blinded them. He begins to bat his forearms around trying to get everyone away. A team of rebels quickly kneels down and begin to lift the bully’s ATV. A jet ski shoots into the lake with friends of mine dangling for their life on the tail of the engine. Total chaos has erupted. I pull my hair and jump off the bench and try to calm everything down. But I’m not the tallest and my attempt to calm the sickness is drowned out by misguided running, shouting, and violence that follows. I can’t even see now that everyone is taller than me. They run every which way and quickly scramble to get the advantage. Like a cloud, many of them huddle and fight over the vehicles while others run away in fear and anger. Wide eyed, I see now how greed and personal agendas manipulate everyone. Now’s everyones’ chances. They hit one another. They kick one another. They hide from one another. They scheme against each other.
Blood comes dripping from one of my old crushes’ faces as her shirt has been torn and her sight temporarily lost. She cries aimlessly dozing her way in my direction. She stumbles over someone’s tent’s pike in the dirt and collapses to the ground.
“Everyone stop!” I cry, but no one hears.
They’re too busy breaking a branch off of a tree and using it as defense. Or they’re too busy trying to down their opponent in a bloody fist fight. Or they’re too busy being pulled by every lim while trying to stay on a vehicles. My poor friendly friends have become so lost.
I turn around, mortified and paralyzed in my path, as I see other friends running away and trying to get into their cars.
“Wait! Come back,” but they speed away kicking dirt behind them and leaving their odds and ends of friends behind them as an act of darwinism.
A zipping sound approaches me and I turn in reaction only to be spun out of control by an ATV. Like a ballerina, I’m twirl while the world goes blurry until a big brown blot nears my face and flattens it upon impact. The world is still turning, and I’ve lost all wind in my lungs. My head rings as it aches from trauma. I raise my head still dizzy and see how greed and violence has turned even those fond of each other against one another. Brothers of my fraternity are pecking down on the weaker ones. Theater kids are hateful by acting against those they were always jealous of. My CITs use their cliques as defensive militias and hide away as best they can. Film partners no long act as partners by using this moment of violence to cary out their inner working plans, hoping to make it out alive and have less competitors in the long run.
Suddenly I grow scared. Where do I fit in all of this? Surely someone will listen to me; the very man who arranged all of this.
“Stop!” I cry but receive no answer ,”Stop!” I cry again but only see the brutality grow.
I weep a tear and fight back the rest and push myself up… But I can only get my torso up. I try to push my knees against the dirt but nothing seems to respond internally.
“No… No, no, no, no, no!” I wiggle and shake my body helplessly but the only thing that will flex is my upper body strength.
“Somebody, fucking help me!” and to my surprise… still no one hears.
I’ve lost all hope. I wouldn’t care if someone dropped a bolder on my head. My greatest fear has come to life: Getting left alone.
But then magically, as if someone were to pull a blanket from under me, the dirt below me moves forward. My shirt raises up to my chest and I’m in complete confusion of this mystical moment. I turn around and see that my legs have been raised and that my body is being heaved wheel barrow style. A best friend of mine picks me up by the hands now. Like a jump rope, I dangle between them and begin to sob tears of joy. Together they coordinate every step, communicating how to cary their crippled friend away.
“Thank you,” I’m barely able to utter out. Step after step, they struggle with my disabled body and start carrying me to one of the helicopters they managed to grab the attention of. They position me upright and sit me down on the floor of the fuselage’s deck. One of them gives the pilots a signal and they take us away from this mess. The helicopter rises and soon enough their bodies become midgets, to ants, to dots. They’re the past now as we amazingly are handed off to the future the helicopter has provided.
I look around and say, “I’m sorry for what I put you through, guys.”
One looks back to me, while propping my paralyzed self up, and says, “After all the experiences we’ve had, I don’t care. I just wanted to make sure you were safe.”
I see the mixed feelings of fear and relief in his eyes. The look in his and everyone else’s eyes are “Thank god.” Amazingly, there are a few from my fraternity. There are a few from theater. There are a few from my fellow CITs. And there a bunch of random assortments too. I’m inspired. I’m relieved. I’m suddenly safer than when the trip even started.
All are a random assortment of people. My random box of chocolates all in one package. The perfect See’s Candy experience. It’s the only thing I need.
Someone explained to me a valuable lesson once. I learned this soon after high school when I realized just how many real friends I had. I spent an entire four years believing in a “family” that didn’t want anything to do with each other after they graduated. They only wanted their cliques to align with each other and even then, they separated from one another; whether it was due to opportunity, obligation, or clashes, people moved their separate ways. And now, I come nearer to the last school year of my life… And it’s frightening in that respect. The possibility of this very same thing is certainly possible.
But I find comfort in this thanks to this quodlibet: Would you rather have a hundred pennies or four quarters?
My parents also, at a very young age, explained to me that being rich doesn’t mean having eight figures. It also is a word that describes what it means to be whole, happy, giving, and more. The more you give, the more you have. People in general aren’t a generous bunch. We’ve grown cynical in a society that breeds cynics. And that’s okay. I can live in a thankless world… It’s stressful at times but I deal with it. Because of this, I recognize that friends, family, and art are what make it worth while.
Combining all that I have gathered, I have a little over four dollars to my name. I have at least twelve really good friends that I can rely on in the worst of times and many other pennies around me. Soon enough, those pennies will disappear like the awkward change they are – sliding into tip jars never to be seen again. I feel that what I have is more wealth than most. I’m blessed beyond belief and couldn’t be happier knowing this. It can be tough to carry all of the extra weight of pennies around… but they filter out and no longer will I or you have to worry about them in the future. When college ends, I’ll find how many dollars I have then. I truly am getting exponentially richer, and with that, I will be as generous as I need to be in this world.