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As I unpack the clothes from my bag, a strong scent hits my nose. It takes me a minute to register what it is, but then I know. It’s the chlorine from the hotel pool. It’s such a strong smell that it’s managed to stay on my clothes for about three months. And as I breathe in the smell, I’m taken back to April 30, 2011.
Every year, around my birthday, my aunt takes me and Amber to the Country Inn & Suites hotel. It’s not much of a vacation for me, but for Amber it means getting away from her annoying brother Andrew and his friends. Amber also lives in Philadelphia, and I think she enjoys being away from the city. I like Amber and the peanut butter cookies at the hotel, so it’s all okay with me.
During the short drive from my house to the hotel, Amber talks nonstop about things that, to be honest, no one really cares about but her. While she goes on and on about her eraser collection, I find myself staring out the window, occasionally saying “Yeah” or “Wow” to keep Amber happy. I think that everyone in the car is relieved when we finally arrive at the hotel and Amber puts the erasers back into her bag.
As usual, the first thing I do when we get there is take a peanut butter cookie. And, as usual, Amber walks into the hallway to stare at the pool. I follow her with the only bag I brought with me and my cookie.
“We should go swimming.” Amber suggests, giving me the look that says “You better say ‘yes’ or else I’ll talk your ears off until you do.” To avoid that, I agree unenthusiastically and follow her into the room.
The first thing that I observe as we walk in is the smell- the smell of chlorine. The hotel uses a certain kind that’s different than any I’ve ever smelled before. It’s one of the strongest scents I know, and I think I’d be able to recognize it anywhere, especially because once it’s on your clothes, it’s pretty much there for good. It’s also incredibly stuffy in the room, and that seems to make the scent even stronger.
We spend hours in the pool, and sometimes the chlorine smell is so strong that it gives me a headache. Throughout the day more people come in and out, and Amber, being the talkative person that she is, attempts to make friends with all of them. It doesn’t take long for me to get tired of hearing “Hi! I’m Amber! That’s my cousin Katie! She lives in Jim Thorpe! We’re both fourteen! I’m allergic to cats!”
We’ve been in the pool for two hours when I decide to ditch Amber for another peanut butter cookie. When I come back to the pool, I’m not surprised to see that Amber has made yet another new friend. I arrive just in time to hear Amber introduce herself.
“Hey, my name’s Amber! I have a pet fish named Junior! I’m visiting my cousin Katie! She’s from Jim Thorpe! Here she comes now!”
The kid seems slightly overwhelmed as he replies: “Hey, I’m R.J. Um...I’m from New Jersey, I’m sixteen, and I’m about to get my driver’s license...”
“Wow! That’s awesome!” she turns to me. “Katie, this is R.J! R.J, that’s my cousin Katie! What does R.J. stand for anyway?”
“Raymond Jr., and you two don’t look like cousins.” R.J. decides after a moment.
“Yeah, I know.” Amber agrees. “But everyone says we act the same! Both of us want to be authors!”
“Really? I want to be in the military.” He started talking about all the different types of guns he was going to use. He lost me after the first few seconds of the conversation, but I still liked listening to him talk about what he was going to do with his life. I admired R.J.’s confidence; he seemed to have his whole future planned out, and, by the way he talked, I knew that he wasn’t going to let anyone or anything hold him back. After talking to him for an hour or so, I knew that I wanted to be just like him. Even to this day, when I smell that chlorine on my clothes, I still think about my sixteen-year-old role model, R.J. I only knew R.J. for less than a day, but he really did influence my life. I don’t think he ever realized how much of an impact he had on me.
We spent the next four or five hours talking to R.J., who was nice enough to put up with Amber’s annoying personality. She constantly attacks him with water or food or laughs at his name. But as it gets closer to midnight, all of us are reluctant to leave because we’ve been having so much fun. When the pool closes, we promise to hang out with each other again the next day and to keep in touch by phone and e-mail. It was a really fun day, and now, whenever I smell the chlorine, I think of Amber, R.J., and the hotel.