For three weeks we stayed in a most unusual camping site. Never before have I camped in a configuration resembling a caravan of covered wagons. In the morning, I decided to push through the awkwardness of being at a stranger’s doorstep by greeting them like family with my dreadlock bed head.
“Good Morning!” I would say as I lifted my mug and drowned myself in coffee. I didn’t know where to look. At my RV? In the neighbor’s window? Should I have stared at the bacon being served for breakfast?
And what about the dedicated fire rings? If we all decided to have a fire at night, would we have ignored each other or had a family reunion and talked about the weather?
The other day, I sat in that particularly peculiar spot under my awning in my PJ pants and tankini enjoying my coffee. I looked out into the campground to see what my neighbors were doing. I noticed a guy in his late twenties dressed only in swim trunks. He was packaging up split logs into campfire bundles behind the slatted fence. His upper body obviously worked out on occasion as tattooed images wrapped his muscular build.
I had several thoughts. My first was how in the midwest one would dress in jeans, tees, and boots for chopping wood. No one would be looking to get a coating of sawdust with a suntan. I also noticed the door to the fence was propped open for onlookers (like me) to wonder about the chainsaw noises and peer in. So, as anyone sitting in my chair would do, I peered in at said guy with sweat and muscles. After doing so, I had to admit to myself that I found him attractive so I could move on with my thoughts about planning out the day’s hikes and not be so distracted.
Just as I began visualizing views atop a mountain, a woman greeted chainsaw guy. She shared stories that echoed off of my RV. Some kids had messed up the bathroom with paper towels. I had to see what was going on. I swept my eyes over to the discussion and then away to see what the rest of the humans were doing in the campground. A few minutes went by as I looked at the tree branches touching the sky.
“She was just f-ing staring at me,” said the woman. Oh, my. Was I the “she” in that sentence? “That one right there? She was just f-ing staring at me.”
My body froze in a coma. Was this woman going to come and punch me in the head for looking at her? Why was she so angry? A “whit whew” whistle sounded from the guy splitting wood. I was so confused, I cleaned out my nails and adjusted my sunglasses as I stared straight ahead.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw the woman walking towards my site. What!? Why can’t I look where I want in this campground? What was going on? The rocks that shifted under her feet became louder. I debated on whether I should stand up and ask her why she was so f-ing angry or ignore her.
“Hello,” I said. Damn, again with the friendly me. Well, that wasn’t very assertive.
“Oh, hi. I’m sorry my friend is really interested in you. Did you hear him whistling?” she asked.
“Oh, no, I didn’t.” When did I become a liar? The moment I thought she might punch me in the head. “Are you working here for the summer?” I asked. A tactic to derail the uncomfortable meeting.
“Yah, we get a free site and then my husband and I can stay in the area.” (Her friend walks by flexing his inked arm with the weight of the chainsaw. His eyes saying, I’m into you.)
“Good morning,” I replied. I felt my body wanting to say more.
A feeling swept over me that I have disassociated from in the past. A feeling tangled in shame and fear. A feeling I am choosing now to feel and wade through with healing – fractured, messy, and once forgotten. Jon came out to join me for coffee. I confided in him my story as we practice talking about our sexuality, a topic we have both guarded since we started our romance.
The woman waved to me from across the campground and smiled.
I stood near my RV in the caravan circle of strangeness.