Between Heaven and Hell There is Forever 21
Age nine. In some cramped cabin in Hope, there is a hazy portrait of me. Awkward; long limbs and knobby knees, translucent skin, bunny teeth. Learning how to be away from home, away from my mother, and how to eat chicken noodle soup around a campfire. Encountering God for the first time at this Bible camp, and also—men. The man is the lifeguard. Older than me. It hurts. It hurts a lot, but I don’t say so. I don’t say no.
This isn’t something I think about, but it’s something that happened. My friends and family know. We don’t talk about it. It’s a scene paused on the VCR and I am too scared to press play.
But last week I found the shirt.
Forever 21 at Guildford Town Centre. Madi saw it first and looked at me, her lips tight in a straight line. The shirt was neon, tacky, disgusting. Summer Camp Champ, the shirt said, bright pink against the orange setting sun. It was thirty dollars. I bought it. I wear it. I smile. Summer Camp Champ. It’s all over. You made it to this day, this Forever 21, this shirt. You made it here. You belong just as much as anyone.