Each summer, I help teach kids how to write poetry at a camp on Shelter Island, New York. In this beautiful environment, I thought nothing would upset me while doing what I love most, one of the only things I’m good at, writing…but I was wrong. We take the kids on a kayaking excursion to generate material to write about. I thought this would be a good opportunity to write something serious and melodic, not my usual funny and self-deprecating. Wrong again. While most of my fellow writers produced beautiful odes to the East End, I present to you: my kayaking nightmare.
I would rather gauge my eyes out than go kayaking but I can’t say no. I’m head counselor.
We line up to get life vests. I go to grab one and the instructor stops me.
“Oh, you need an extra large.” He hollers to his partner across the parking lot.
“Jim, do we got any plus size life jackets?! For this girl RIGHT HERE!” referring to me.
Not only do I despise all things nature and athletic, now I’m reminded that I need a special life vest for obese people. I’m starting to get nervous I’m going to sink the kayak. I insert myself into a kayak designed for a single person. I feel awkward getting in. When the instructor sees my lack of a left hand, (I’m a congenital amputee) he says “Oh no, you need to be in a double.”
I drag myself out of the single and heave myself into the double. I never make excuses for myself. I always do things people think I can’t do. I can do anything a two handed person can do, just maybe a bit differently. I can do anything a two handed person can do…except kayak.
The next two hours were a blur of me uttering every bad word I’d ever known.
The serene waters of the Long Island Sound were interrupted with spurts of “YOUR MOTHER’S ASS!”
I had hopes of tilting my head back and taking in the trees, the birds, the water, the gentle breeze but I realized that wouldn’t be happening anytime soon. Instead of appreciating Long Island and all its splendor, I desperately tried to unknot my matting hair extensions and keep my spray tan from running.
The group was now well ahead of me and Abby, my fellow counselor, which made no sense because we were the ones supposed to be in charge of them.
I went from panicking over the campers’ safety to thinking, “Let the motherfuckers drown. Let the whole lot of them drown.”
My arm started bleeding from all the chafing against the paddle. Our boat was rapidly filling with all the water I was splashing in with my frantic paddling. If we tried to go right, we went left. If we tried to go left, we went right. I thought I had outsmarted this phenomenon and tried to go left when hoping to go right, and we just didn’t move at all. A sailboat was headed straight towards us and Abby tried to paddle away but I just sat there and stared at the sailboat. “Hit me. I dare you. I beg of you.” Maybe I can use the accident insurance money to never work at a summer camp again.
“This is the end,” I thought.
The boat sails by wickedly close but we unfortunately cheat death.
I want to reach into the water and grab a jellyfish and rub it all over me until I die. I toy with the idea of getting out and swimming back but I realize I’m all talk about the jellyfish rubbing because the congregation of jellyfish stops me. I scream for the instructor but he is no help. We are two hours out into the sea. A girl in our group hurts her wrist and her kayak is towed. Lucky bitch.
But apparently we aren’t good enough to get towed. As if this guy wants to teach the obese one-handed kayak failure a lesson.
We paddle up to the shore, which is miles away from where we need to be. I decide I’m through with this shit and I’m going to get out and walk. But I left my shoes at the departure point and these rocks are like thousands of tiny little fucking daggers. Now I want to slam my head into these rocks until I knock myself unconscious.
I finally get back, a half hour later than the rest of the group, defeated and bleeding.
My boss takes one look at me and says, “Now you have more material for your memoir!”