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I'm thinking again. It's eleven, so there won't be anyone else up. My hand seeks out my track phone, and I scroll through the contacts. I need to talk to someone and there's only one person likely to be awake. The phone rings twice before my friend answers. Without waiting for an exchange of pleasantries, I launch into my story.
It was the summer of my freshman year when I first attended swim camp. My old coach's son attended the college that was hosting the week-long event. I went alone; I never had trouble doing things alone. The college dorm rooms were small. Two beds, two dressers, two chairs – twins of everything – slouched in the room, so one side was a mirror echo of the other. My bags found their home below the bed. Minutes later, as I was finishing unpacking, my roommate drifted in. I watched her begin to unload, then wandered out the door.
The kids who had arrived before me – or those who unpacked faster – had congregated on the first floor, crowding around…something. I pushed in, curious. There was a circle of people on the floor – counselors, I think. Only one face registered.
I've liked people before, of course. I adored one of my guy friends from third grade up through eighth, but this felt different somehow. The counselors were talking, exchanging playful banter with campers who had come to Cortland before. I watched, and listened. No one talked to me, but when someone called out that it was time for dinner, the counselors stood, and he smiled…at me.
The rest of the week passed in a blur of swimming, thunderstorms and rousing games of "Tobin Wins," nicknamed for their win-at-any-cost creator. When it came time to go, I left with reluctance.
It was only the start of something.
He came to States that year. He was recruiting; I thought he was there to watch me. It was easy to pick him out of the crowd. There aren't many six-six, black-haired beanpoles wandering around most pool decks. I almost missed my event when I went up into the stands to say hello during the break. He smiled when he saw me. His hand was warm on my shoulder as he pointed out swimmers I'd never heard of.
Coach was less than pleased with me when I returned to the deck with bare seconds to spare before my event. I swam my race better than anyone expected. Except…maybe him.
"She's fast – too fast maybe. Slow down, will you? Otherwise, how am I supposed to recruit you?"
"I'll talk to you later," I murmured into the phone. There was agreement from the other end of the line, then a click, and I lifted my still-glowing track phone. Six hours after the first ring, and I was just hanging up. Thank god it was summer.
My room was a little too warm; I wandered over to the thermostat, picking my way through the maze of junk on the floor. My mom hates coming into my room. She thinks it's like a train wreck. Unfortunately, that means she always tries to clean it, ignoring the fact that I can't find anything when she's screws with my chaotic nest.
A twist of the thermostat set it back down to a comfortable range – approximately 66.7 degrees. Three steps back in the direction I'd come from, and I was sprawled out on my bed again. The sheets were rumpled and the pillows added to the clutter on the floor. I closed my eyes. A six hour conversation wasn't too long… I could guess I was driving people a little crazy though; that was the first time Poppy – talk-a-holic extraordinaire – had sounded happy to end a conversation.
I guess she didn't quite get it. I turned over, resting my chin on my hands, opening my eyes to stare at the wall mere inches from my face. I didn't quite get it, either.