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Julia Ludovici

Memoir Project
April 15th, 2017
It’s in the Water

The forest outside our tent was very much alive, and very much hoping for us to take
notice. Rough canvas tent flaps tapped rhythmically against the solid wood platform floor. The
four other girls in the tent giggled and gossiped. But we were not paying attention to any of that.
My best friend, Grace, had pushed her metal cot up against mine, and we were lying
facing the far end of the tent, shared headphones plugged into her endless supply of indie music.
It had taken us 6 summers to smuggle in an iPod, and now that we were Counselors in Training,
our supervisors turned a blind eye to our earbuds and conjoined beds during rounds. Grace’s long
blond hair swept against my face and neck as I nestled my face into her back, between her
shoulder blades. Her shirt smelled like bug spray and campfire smoke, and her shampoo smelled
like roses. I was intoxicated by her scent as we drifted into peaceful sleep.

“Honey,” my friend Roxanne shouted pointedly as we made our way across the Meadow,
the heart of Camp Hoffman. “You’ve been coming to Girl Scout camp for seven years. How
many times do I have to tell you ‘there’s something in the water’ for you to believe me?”
“I know, I know,” I chuckled, fiddling nervously with the straps of my backpack. “I’ve
just never really thought about myself that way before. I….I don’t know….I’ve always been so
boy-crazy. I just…I don’t know.”
“Girl, you may not know, but I do. You wouldn’t be so upset about this if you didn’t feel
something.”
She wasn’t wrong. It had been a whole 12 months since listening to Daughter and sharing
a sleeping bag with Grace; I was about three weeks into my five-week-long summer internship at
the camp I had attended since I was 10 years old. It was the first time in all seven years that I was
not accompanied by Grace, but she was certainly not absent from my thoughts. Each morning I
awoke to a text about her amazing girlfriend, and all day long I received updates about their
relationship and their undying love for each other. The longer I ignored the messages, the more
annoying—and persistent—they became. I craved just a single conversation about anything other
than her splendid love life.
I missed Grace in more ways than one. I missed our nightly “spooning” sessions and
feeling so safe tucked safely next to her; I missed when we talked about our dreams; I missed
planning elaborate backpacking trips in South America; I missed complaining about the outdoors
and counting our endless bug bites. I missed being the center of someone else’s attention. I
missed the person she was before one of her other girl friends kissed her on the lips one morning
after a sleepover. Deep down I wished one of our hundreds of sleepovers had ended in the same
way.
That night I re-read all the messages she had sent me and I burst into hysterical sobs.
Roxanne had seen right through me. I was jealous. I let the word simmer on my tongue, and
although I did not like the taste, I knew it was true. My fingers flew furiously across my phone’s
glowing screen, crafting a message meant to deflect blame and preserve my sanity. I carefully
asked Grace to Shut. Up. About. Eliza. Already.
She obliged.

“Are you coming out of the closet?!” Tristian screeched, a tinge of laughter hiding in the
cracks of her harsh West London accent. My toes were buried in cool clay sand, and flashlights
waved in the direction of the docks. Campers flooded between us, and even in the darkness I
could see a sparkle in her eye. “Hang on, I need to hear this story.”
My burning cheeks took refuge in the cool nighttime air. As the campers filed onto the
docks, Tristian, Roxanne, and I lagged behind.
After I was done verbally fitting myself into the somewhat awkward new category of
‘bisexual,’ Roxanne grinned, her teeth shining bright against her dark lips in the lantern light.
Tristian cackled endlessly and my ears lapped it up. The newly exposed part of my identity
thrived off of my friends’ reactions. Their kind words were laden with the kind of understanding
and attention I had been unknowingly craving for the last month. I felt giddy with confidence
and relief, something I had forgotten it was possible to feel.
Long after I was tucked safely into my sleeping bag, their muffled exclamations of ‘I told
you so’ and ‘I knew it’ lingered in my brain. I pulled out my phone and began a new message to
Grace, exclaiming my newfound identity with a cautious amount of enthusiasm. I received a
response laden with rainbow flag emoji’s: “welcome to the fam!!! I’m so happy for you!”
And although she would never know she was the catalyst for this discovery, I could not
suppress my smile.

“Ugh,” I moaned at the staff lunch table in between bites of a grilled cheese sandwich. “I
have spent so much time trying to tell my friends that I don’t go to gay camp.” My fellow interns
burst into laughter. We have known all along that of course we go to gay camp; it’s in the water.
Here I was, surrounded by the same forest, the same trees, buildings, fire pits, and rough
canvas tent flaps, as I had been for nearly eight summers. But somehow, everything was
different. I was different.

I brushed a strand of Grace’s long hair behind her ear and I let my fingers linger in her
soft tresses. My arm fit perfectly beneath the curve of her hip and our breathing was synched to
the same rhythm. Eerie vocals and smooth electric guitar filled my ear, and when her body
shifted, I shifted too.
I did not know then that this moment would come crashing back to me in waves for the
next three years. I did not know then that we would never be that close to one another again. I
did not know that in two summers’ time, piled together like sardines in a too-small camping tent,
I would crave the pressure of her body against mine. I did not know that we would sleep together
in her bed after a late-night concert, and even though Eliza was not around anymore, I would
never muster up the courage to kiss her. She would drive me home and I would be unable to
articulate the hollowness inhabiting my bones.
I did not know anything then, on that creaking metal cot, our bodies intertwined, our
emotions synchronized, our minds swirling with John Green quotes and visions of our futures
together. Grace is one long moment of realization, one perfectly-fitting piece of a complex
puzzle that I did not know was missing parts. But, in the end, that finished puzzle will not
display a picture of her.
And there are still a lot of pieces I have yet to find.