By Carla Sosenko
The ring was set up on the basketball court, and after dinner the entire camp slogged up Heart Attack Hill, gathering on bleachers to watch. Each successive bout brought older and older campers until it was time for J. and me to enter the ring. Maybe we were the main event. I didn’t realize it if we were.
Both of us knew the importance of seeming like girls, even though I was strong, was afraid of my strength, really, of how it seemed—too masculine, not delicate—the two of us circling each other in our shorts and T-shirts, locking fingers and pushing each other that way, giggling and slipping in the cold pudding until we were both on the ground, rolling around on top of each other, chocolate flinging the referees and sloshing onto the court while campers and counselors cheered louder and louder.
We didn’t know how to wrestle, not really—that’s not a girlish rite of passage, or wasn’t one in the 1990s—and I don’t remember who won. I remember only the smell of sour milk in our bunk for days and finding pudding in our ears after so much Q-Tipping it didn’t seem there could be any left.
Everybody loved J., me especially, because I felt so special beside her. She was a joiner, one of the kids who arrived and immediately rolled with the ways of camp while I was still busy acclimating, even all these years later, having panic attacks when I should have been learning to kiss and macramé. The camp directors had imported her, actually, from the school where they were just teachers during the year, not summer-fun czars. She was a celebrity guest star, brought in to liven things up.
And she did, right away, getting in trouble for a middle-of-the-night boys-bunk raid her very first night. I even did that wrong: It was the rebellious girls the staff truly deified (even when the rules said they had to punish them) because they were so much better at being teenagers than I was.
But in that ring, I was audacious without knowing it because the implication of pudding wrestling eluded me. I was an innocent, had no idea that M., the 22-year-old counselor from London (who watched me now from somewhere in those bleachers, unseen) was trying to get into my pants until my friends told me so. I found it annoying the way he doted on me and always said how pretty I was.
Sex was pervasive then, close but not really. We’d stay up past curfew most nights to talk about it, flashlights dotting the ceiling from our top bunks, some of us not really understanding what any of it meant. J. seemed to know things we didn’t, and I was pretty sure she’d done it but was too terrified to ask. The rest of us divided guys into three categories of attractiveness—cute, handsome and hot—and evaluated their likely sexual performance, guessing whether they’d be “rough” or “gentle” in bed. I’m sure this seemed silly to her.
I’m sure also that J. knew what we were doing in that ring—she was acquainted with the power she held, probably knew that rolling around on top of your friend in front of everybody was outrageous and maybe even a little sexy, probably delighted in that—but I just thought it sounded like fun, getting up in front of everybody and performing with her.
- Carla Sosenko’s work has appeared in Marie Claire, Self, Jezebel, the Hairpin, Heeb and various other publications. Her first play, Headcase, was produced in the 2001 New York International Fringe Festival, and her short story “Clutter” was a semifinalist in the Nimrod Awards. She received her MFA in creative writing from Emerson College and is currently working on her memoir, Such a Pretty Face. You can find her at her website and on Twitter.