"Dude. There's no more graham crackers."
"What? There was a whole box!"
"I don't know, they're gone now."
"Are you kidding me? What did you do with them?!"
"My marshmallow! It's slipping!"
"I didn't do anything! They're just gone!"
"Guys. There's a ton of graham crackers left. The box fell on the
"Good job there, bucko."
I took the proffered crackers and carefully slid my roasted
marshmallow off the stick in my hand, along with a piece of Hershey's
chocolate. The seven of us were seated in somewhat of a circle around a
large campfire. Bree was beside me, long red hair pulled into a pony tail,
the box of graham crackers still raised triumphantly in her hand for
everyone to see. Jake snatched it from her, ducking his head to hide
beneath his Red Sox cap, still looking slightly embarrassed about declaring
the box's disappearance when it had been right behind him all along. Bjorn
was shaking his head at him hopelessly. I smiled and munched my s'more
We were camped out in a little clearing in the woods next to a pretty
little babbling brook. Mark's car was parked nearby. Jake's car had been
abandoned miles back; it hadn't quite survived the trip. It was a wonder we
had survived the drive to New Hampshire at all. Most of us had just gotten
our licenses last year, and some of us probably shouldn't have gotten them
in the first place. And by some of us, I mean Bjorn. What were we thinking
when we let him behind the wheel? Sure, switching off sounded like a good
idea, but we should have realized that certain people should be excused-
especially people who have been suspended from school for sticking a
paperclip into an electrical outlet.
"We're gonna' die!" screamed Jake at the top of his lungs as the
flimsy, white Sidekick jeep, which was really nothing but a big box on
wheels, whipped around a bend in the road, zig-zagging around other cars
despite the two yellow lines on the road, Zoe laughing hysterically all the
while. She and Bjorn have been dating since freshman year. They'll probably
get married someday. I can see it now: him in a dress and her in a tux,
each with Insane Clown Posse makeup, saying their vows on a bridge before
bungee-jumping off of it together. Perhaps we shouldn't have been quite so
stunned when the little jeep went careening right off the road and tipped
onto its side.
It was like the moment when you lean back an inch too far in your
chair and you realize with a suddenly terrifying certainty: you are going
to fall. My heart lurched in those brief seconds of confusion. My head
thudded against the window and Zoe's weight fell on top of me. We lay stuck
on our sides, no one saying a thing, the rush of adrenaline slowly fading.
"I'm going to fucking kill you," said Jake slowly, breaking the tense
silence, staring directly in front of him.
"Shut up, I'm fucking serious, man."
Bjorn only laughed harder, his braided stalks of hair wobbling on his
head as he shook, like some strange sort of alien. Zoe joined in at my side
and I soon found myself laughing right along with them; I couldn't help it-
everything seemed unreal and ridiculous. It was a miracle no one was hurt.
Fortunately Mark, Cole and Bree had been right behind us and saw it
happen. They pulled over and we called AAA. They towed the thing and we
were forced to pile into Mark's car. I ended up sharing the front seat with
Cole, a boy with shoulder-length, dirty-blonde hair and a tan, masculine
face that kept him from looking like a Hanson brother. On my other side sat
Mark, at the wheel, his black hair falling across his forehead gently.
Bree, Zoe, Bjorn, and Jake were squished together in the backseat, arguing
good-naturedly over something. Zoe was screaming that she had to pee and we
had to pull over. The Ataris were singing out from the CD-player: "In This
Unfortunately, when we arrived at the campsite at last, they informed
us that it was only for families, and clearly, we were not a family, but
bunch of rowdy teenagers. And so we were forced to continue onward,
searching for a few more hours until finally finding someplace that would
allow us to claim a patch of land for the night where we could roast some
hotdogs and get eaten by bugs.
Setting up the tent had been another adventure in itself, not to
mention blowing up the air mattresses, but about an hour of struggling and
cursing later, the tent was up, the sleeping bags ready, the fire going and
the snacks brought out. I popped the last bit of my s'more into my mouth,
licking the chocolate and marshmallow goo off of my fingers.
"Was it everything you imagined it would be?" Bree asked, watching
Sometimes you just get cravings for something. You get it in your
head that you would like to eat a certain thing, and will not rest until
you do. I had been craving s'mores for the past week or two and was
thrilled to be eating them at last. Several years ago, Bree and I had a
similar craving one night when I slept over her house. Sadly, she hadn't
had any of the proper ingredients at the time. We tried to compensate by
using bread, fluff and chocolate syrup. It hadn't been quite the same.
"Alright," said Jake firmly. "It's time to burn this shit." He
approached the fire steadily, a wide grin on his face. In his arms he held
a large stack of papers.
"Yes!" shouted Bjorn, leaping to his feet and running for Mark's car,
followed closely by Cole and Zoe. They returned proudly a moment later with
their backpacks slung over their shoulders.
This had been the plan. The day after our graduation, we were going
to build a fire and watch our schoolwork burn, as a sort of ceremony
symbolizing our freedom from high school. We would never have to slave away
there again. Goodbye waking up at 5:30, goodbye Calculus, goodbye Physics,
goodbye stupid Mr. Fundburg. I had actually decided that I would like to
keep my notes, just in case I ever needed them in college. Mark and Bree
agreed, but we looked on with smiles as the others tossed their papers into
the eager flames.
"Adios, Spanish flashcards," Jake drawled, sprinkling the index cards
"Yeah, same to you, Latin," said Cole. "Facio."
I laughed. "Facio" is Latin for many things: I do, I make, I build, I
start, I beat, etc. Cole just liked the way it sounded. It is pronounced
"fah-ky-o." He liked to conjugate it out loud from time to time: facio,
facis, facit, facimus, facititis, facunt.
After a few minutes, they had finished. All that was left to do was
sit and watch. I leaned back on my log and stared into the fire, watching
the flames flicker erratically, hypnotically, the warmth tightening the
skin on my face. The lulling smell of smoke filled the air and I sighed in
contentment. Soot drifted through the air, stinging my eyes and making them
water, but I didn't look away. I watched as the papers turned brown, then
black, then gray, curling and folding into nothing but ashes.
The sun had nearly disappeared and I saw my friends as peaceful
silhouettes all around me. Cole was sitting on a cooler, strumming an
acoustic guitar quietly, his long, sandy hair falling into his face. Zoe
sat across from me, her eyes blinking sleepily at the fire, Bjorn's arm
around her shoulders. He was wearing short sleeves and I could see her name
carved into his arm. Mark was poking at the campfire with his stick,
watching it catch with intense yet amused blue eyes and quickly rubbing it
out again. Bree was stretched out on the ground, staring up at the stars as
they appeared. Jake lay beside her, singing quietly and tapping one foot to
the sound of Cole's guitar.
These were the people that had been with me through all the trials of
the last four years. It is difficult to get across the feeling of those
years, so dark and full of questioning, groping blindly, despairing. And
yet, in a way I look back on them as the best days of my life. It's because
of my friends that I can say that. So many things had happened in those
years. Cole had a taste of fame in the biggest local band in town, only to
be kicked out after less than a year. He had dropped out of school for a
few months for that band, taking classes online from his home. It had been
difficult for him to keep up when he came back the next year, but I'm glad
he did. Jake's brother went to war, and of course, he still claims that the
Red Sox coming so close to the World Series and losing was a traumatic
experience. Both Mark's and my parents divorced; in fact, both our fathers
had affairs, coincidentally. Bree's mother got cancer and she quit every
extra-curricular activity that had once been fun to her; Bjorn started
doing serious drugs and getting in trouble with the law; Zoe attempted
suicide by overdosing on Tylenol. These are things that change you. These
are things that form bonds that will not be broken. We were not the same
people we had been when we had met, yet somehow, parts of us remained the
same. Some core connection between us remained through it all.
Would it still be like this, five years from then? I wanted to
believe it. I wanted to believe so badly that nothing would part us, not
distance, not time, nothing. And I did believe it. Even so, as I sat there
watching them that night, I decided that I was going to hold onto that
moment by that campfire forever.
Something small and cold dropped onto my head. I glanced upward,
annoyed. Another drop.
"Agh," cried Bree, sitting upright, one hand clasped to his forehead.
"Bug-bite?" asked Mark.
It was true. It was raining.
We fled the scene, hastily wrapping up food and tossing coolers,
sleeping bags and backpacks into the car, and diving into the tent. We
tried for about half an hour to stick it out. We were tough kids, after
all. But the rain beat down steadily on the thin canvas and that babbling
brook had somehow turned into Niagra Falls. We were lying there, all of us
pretending we had somehow fallen asleep, when a flashlight suddenly clicked
on, spotlighting a corner on the roof of the tent. Seven pairs of eyes
watched as a drop of water fell, landing on Mark, whom we saw was holding
the flashlight. I propped myself up on my elbows and gasped as my hand felt
water on the floor. As thunder clapped and the rain intensified, we decided
to sacrifice the tent; we'd come back for it in the morning.
We spent the night in a warm hotel room, praising the power of
electricity. It had worked out for the best really, we told ourselves. We
had gotten our nice quiet time enjoying nature, but we still got to sleep
in nice, warm beds with mattresses. I curled up beneath the covers and
smiled into the pillow, letting my eyes fall shut. School was over and the
future was awaiting me, but for the moment, I was content to lie here,
surrounded by these people I loved.
I was nearly asleep, when something woke me up. Jake sat up from his
spot on the couch. "Oh shit," he said.
"Quiet!" groaned Zoe.
"Sorry," he whispered.
"What is it?" I asked groggily.
"I just remembered. What the hell am I going to tell my parents about