I don't remember why I ever went to Camp Greenbrier. My mom thought I wanted to got there. Maybe I did. My sister had a great time at Camp Seafarer, where she learned all sorts of sailing things. Maybe I went to camp because of how much fun she was having.
However, from the moment I got on the bus to Camp Greenbrier, I knew it was a bad idea. I got on at the McDonald's on Vinegar Hill in Charlottesville. First time I tried to sit down on the bus I was told I couldn't sit there. I don't remember how I found a seat the other boys would allow me to sit in.
I had the usual pranks played on me that any boy at a summer camp gets played on them. The tents were up on wooden platforms. There were metal framed beds in the tents. If you put two of the feet of the bad halfway on the edge, when someone sat it the bed, it (and they) would fall out of the tent. One time at breakfast I kept feeling something in my shoe, but I couldn't shift it around so it wasn't uncomfortable. After breakfast I emptied my shoes and a bunch of beetles fell out. I didn't even realize it was a prank at the time, I didn't clue into that until I was much older. It must have fallen rather flat for the boys who tried it, because I was just totally unconcerned about beetles being in my shoes.
That stuff was no big deal. But no one there liked me. I had no friends. I played my recorder once at show and tell, and some people clapped. So I'd play it from time to time, until one boy came up to me and said something like "We'd all appreciate it if you stop playing that stupid thing."
I don't remember much of what the other boys did to me that made me so sad at Camp Greenbrier, except from being told I was a dirty long-haired freak. It makes what happened seem rather whiny, looking back. Maybe it was.
The most humiliating memory of the camp wasn't even something the other boys did. On the first day the counselor in my tent told me to make my bed. I didn't know how. A maid had always made my bed. How pathetic is that? I mean, I can understand not making your bed, because you don't want to. I often don't. And I can understand not knowing how to make your bed if you've never slept on the sort of bed that needs to be made. I'm sure there are plenty of unfortunate people like that in the world, who didn't grow up with beds, much less maids. But to grow up sleeping in a bed and to not knowing how to make it just seems incredibly pathetic.
It got to the point where I would spend entire days hiding in my tent, under the bed, writing the sort of role-playing games that a ten year old writes. I remember once hiding under a building all day, in a crawl space. A counselor notice me there as he was walking by. He looked at me for a moment, and then gave a bemused "okay" and walked away.
In the end, I tried to kill myself. It wasn't a real suicide-thing. It was probably one of those cry-for-help things. Each tent had three young boys and an older boy or an adult as a counselor. The counselors would get nights off to go into town. (The students only went into town once, for the 4th of July fireworks.) So one night when my counselor was in town I broke into his trunk (we each had a trunk to keep our stuff in) and took out his hunting knife. I held it in front of me like I was going to stab myself with it. At least one of the other boys in the tent egged me on, telling me to do it. But I just stared at it for a long time until one of the other boys took it away from me. I suppose that is even more pathetic than not knowing how to make your bed.
When the counselor came back and heard what happened from the other boys, he got really mad and yelled at me for breaking into his trunk and taking his knife. I mean, I could have cut myself and then he would have been in trouble.
Years later my mom found out about it. One night she came back from a meeting or something and I had a bunch of candles lit in my room. She freaked out on me, accusing me of trying to burn down the house (I think she was anxious about mortgage payments or something). I told her about the suicide attempt as a defensive measure. She sent me to a shrink. I don't remember much about the shrink. I think it was Dr. Waters. I just remember being very scared.