By Jyoti Gandhi Laverack
This story is an excerpt from a larger coming-of-age piece involving themes of friendship, sisterhood, and romance.
After a long drive from the city, Brian’s mom parked the car and suggested the teenagers go for a hike. The five of them walked in a single file line through a thin, sequestered pathway in the woods. Bright greens, fresh raspberries, and dew-drenched forsythia hung in their faces. Camille requested something other than the cliche romantic Top 40 music that Brian and Ophelia loved. Instead, Camille and Tyler took over the music: Gambino, Chance, and Tyler the Creator. Camille enjoyed bonding with Tyler even over something so customary as music taste, hating to admit that she sought any excuse to watch his dimples appear, for his eyes to meet hers for just a moment.
“Bertha!” Camille called to her best friend as she held Brian’s hand, snapping a picture of the two of them as their palms touched in the alcove of the early spring flowers. With the soundtrack, Camille felt as if she were in the final scenes of a two-and-a-half-star high school movie. Their coquettish friend, Ophelia, whom Camille had often asked for unsuccessful flirting advice, was suddenly lustful, leaning into Tyler with a giggle. Ophelia tossed her sun-soaked mane of wavy black hair and grinned from ear to ear with her tanned, freckled cheeks, looking between the two guys. As she walked, she almost seemed to be imitating Bertha, swaying back and forth in a black sundress and swirling her hair into a huge messy bun.
Camille, stranded at the back of the single file line behind Tyler, analyzed her own walk. She didn’t sway or toss her hair; Camille walked into herself. There was nothing sensual about the way she moved. Her stride was lanky, like a fish out of water or an animal finally released from her cage—attempting to navigate a body in a world that was foreign to her. Camille hadn’t mastered the art of looking effortless, or even that of feeling at home enough in her own body. Bertha and Ophelia had grown to act romantic even in the way they moved, with the way they twirled their hair—burgeoning sensuality oozed from the way they confidently flaunted their low-cut shirts and batted their eyelashes.
The kids finally approached the water. Tyler smoothly pulled off his loose, burgundy-ink printed button down, the cotton sliding seamlessly off of the arc of his sunlit back. Brian, preemptively shirtless, wiped the grease from his nose with his shirt and flexed his chest. Camille tightly twisted her hair into a small, prudish bun, tentatively pulling off her long, thrifted skirt to reveal her ’20s flapper body in broad daylight. She sucked in her stomach and pulled down the high legs of her bathing suit.
The beautiful beach lasted for hours. The teenagers sat in a sunlit alcove reserved for only them—a capsule moment of perfection that a picture might capture, but that failed to represent the many feelings and thoughts which coursed through Camille’s body. Camille grappled with feeling happy for her best friend—laughing one minute, leaning on her shoulder the next. But the same feeling pressed that Bertha was in another world. Bertha was in another world that Camille could not understand. Bertha was in another world that felt more important in this moment, no matter how much she loved Camille. Camille couldn’t blame Bertha, yet she also was at a loss of what to do with herself. Her eyes scanned for Ophelia who lay, stretched out sexy as she tanned on a towel, asking everyone to take pictures for Instagram. Camille had tried to tan and look pretty for pictures, but after seeing one or two, she felt self-conscious next to the other girls.
Camille, as loved as her friends could make her feel, felt like she was in the bubble of a misunderstood, lonely world. Tyler sat on a rock, boring his eyes into the sand rushing between his toes with the waves. Camille found herself, almost in desperation, absorbing the details of Tyler’s appearance, attempting to find solace in the familiarity of their repartee. Lost in the self-consciousness, loneliness, and insufficiency which washed over her, Camille found herself reliant on his attention. Tyler suddenly, as if reading Camille’s mind, leaned in to say: “In this thick, copious greenery, I wish that my girlfriend was here to caresse avec.”
“French class showoff,” Camille teased. Yet she was again, for the second time in the past day, enveloped in a foreign desire for the same thing. The deliciously delirious, movie-like sensation she craved was so intertwined with the jealousy and bitterness she had towards being left behind.
Camille was at the point where she almost couldn’t pull the two apart.
Jyoti Gandhi Laverack is a class of 2020 Girls Write Now mentee based in Brooklyn, NY.