From the Roof of Cabin Nine | Teen Ink

From the Roof of Cabin Nine

August 29, 2009
By DanaJae SILVER, Highland Park, Illinois
DanaJae SILVER, Highland Park, Illinois
8 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Favorite Quote:
But we were born of risen apes, not fallen angels, and the apes were armed killers besides. And so what shall we wonder at? Our murders and massacres and missiles, and our irreconcilable regiments? Or our treaties whatever they may be worth; our symphonies however seldom they may be played; our peaceful acres, however frequently they may be converted into battlefields; our dreams however rarely they may be accomplished. The miracle of man is not how far he has sunk but how magnificently he has risen. We are known among the stars by our poems, not our corpses.

Sometimes the expansive silence of night humbles and instills a quiet sense of reflective calm, but on the second to last night of Camp Marimeta, the inky sky provided the twenty girls sitting in a circle on the field with an unfamiliar feeling of power through the sensation of total and mysterious isolation. We were the oldest age group, finishing our final year, stewing with frustrated angst because we knew ourselves to be the rulers of the camp and yet it had gone unrecognized.

We felt entitled to certain privileges our counselors could provide for us: trips to town, movies, socials with boys, ice cream, but with the summer dwindling, we had yet to receive any prizes. So now, dejected, we resorted to sitting on the muddy grass and contemplating among ourselves our boredom, which stemmed from our consuming state of helpless reliance on our counselors for anything special or unusual. We watched the faint yellow lights of the surrounding cabins click off one by one, leaving us in a dreamy shadow that obscured the line between thought and action. As we spoke, indignant about our counselors’ ignorance, a ripple of anarchy entered our minds simultaneously. The conversation grew a bit more erratic, the tone of our complaints became more defiant. Summer camp under any circumstance is an isolated entity, separate from any world events and, in our minds, transcendent of any outside laws, but as we spoke it was as if a veil had been lifted – camp, once a world of dependence and controlled privileges, suddenly became a world with no rules, our world. I felt a new kind of freedom, a liberty unhinged through the invulnerability of youth and unhindered by any visible presence of adults or authority.

We fueled ourselves with all the possibilities our environment offered, struck with the abrupt realization that with nothing left to lose, all was possible. An idea suddenly emerged without one discernable source, and immediately began to grow under the influence of our rampant conversation like a snowball rolling in sticky snow: we would climb up onto the roof of our cabin. In the exhilarating freedom of the moment, I believed that the plan, so extraordinarily simple and plausible yet daring in its originality, perfectly harnessed our rebellious courage and matched the inflamed sense of supremacy that the girls in my cabin had reached.

Seamlessly, I stood up and joined the small group who began to set the plan into motion. Three of us eagerly ran to the other end of the field to reach a small and dilapidated wooden tool shed, silently congratulating each other with smirking smiles for having the nerve to take action. The ladder hung on a wall next to an open spigot that served as a water fountain. Unabashedly confident of our ascendancy, I did not even think to worry about the supernaturally loud crunch of wet gravel, or our hushed giggles, which certainly carried to, and probably awakened, the nearest cabin. Carrying a long ladder across an uneven and rooted field in the dark, winding through trees and cabins, proved to be a slow task, but effortless in my grey hum of mindless adrenaline. Eventually, we rejoined the crowd of girls, who in our absence, had divided amongst themselves between those who supported our endeavor and those who believed we should all just go back to bed. Both parties crowded the ladder as we brought it up against the building, vocal in their conflicting opinions but united in their sheer curiosity and disbelieving anticipation.

I watched the girl in front of me climb onto the ladder, weaving through the invisible rungs quickly until she sat comfortably, silhouetted in darkness, on the sloped A-line roof. An inexplicable sensation of numb dissociation washed over me as I felt myself acting with the courage I didn’t quite feel but wished I had. I felt myself step forward with a confidence I couldn’t place, and start climbing the ladder, catalyzing a wave of whispers and giggling shouts from the surrounding girls. My hands climbed mechanically, in contradiction to the fear that grew in proportion to my increasing height from the grassy ground. An eternity later, I reached the top of the shingled roof and, with minimal effort, clamored over the rain gutter until I held myself in place next to my valiant fellow climber.

The roof was steeper than it looked from the ground and the sharp angle together with the mystery and uncertainty in the darkness caused my heart to race and my head to swell with unanticipated anxiety. I maintained my composure, determined to sustain the daring persona I had radiated when I stepped forward onto the ladder. Almost immediately after I became relatively comfortable, a third girl finished her trek up the ladder and wriggled her form until she was lying down beside me. The details of the conversation I shared with the girls are lost to my memory, but I do recall its incongruous ordinariness. The three of us shared a hidden and private world, isolated and secure. We became living manifestations of our own invulnerable youth and spirit, achieving a defiant and anarchic rebellion that the horde of girls mere feet below us, was infinitely distant from.

Seconds later, I distinguished my counselors’ faces from the crowd, and soon they were the only faces visible as the rest of my cabin had scattered silently into their beds. The ladder which only a moment ago had felt like a throne to exalt our bold convictions became a steep gauntlet leading to certain doom. I was the last one on the roof and climbing the ladder down under the vengeful stare of my counselor, I was filled with an empty impression of abandonment and humiliation. The climb down was infinitely more difficult than the ascent. The counselor disappeared with a hissing whisper that she would be back soon and I hesitantly walked into my cabin to be immediately assailed by a room of wildly uncontrolled bickering. I remember one girl sobbing loudly in the bathroom, confident that we were all going to be sent home a day early or else severely punished. Inwardly, I privately agreed and thought with dread that as one of the three who had actually climbed onto the roof, I would be set apart to bear a uniquely harsh punishment. As we argued about culpability and the precariousness of our situation, I joined the faction of campers defending our activity and assuring the rest that there was nothing that would, or could, be done to us.

In my mind I tried to recreate the sense of adolescent freedom I had felt while we were formulating our plan, but all I could feel was the regretful burn of idiocy. Climbing onto the roof no longer represented raw audacity but, rather, a shallow and pathetic folly built from our own self-indulgent delusions of invincibility and entitlement. When I recounted our adventure to the younger cabins in the morning, and later to my family, I conveyed an air of nonchalant pride and nerve to describe a feat that in my own gut was inextricable from a feeling of pathetic insignificance. At camp, the hours ticked by, each with its own promise of impending castigation, a punishment which to our surprise never came at all. In retrospect, the whole event was comically juvenile and inconsequential and yet, while it still carries in my memory the swirling regret and trepidation, I will never forget the sensation of the cold air and the numb buzzing rush I felt while I sat paralyzed on the roof of Cabin Nine.

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