I’m not really afraid of anything. I may be just 13 years old, but I’m very mature for my age, I never cry and a lot of people tell me I’m really strong. If someone tried to beat me up, I’d just put him in a wrestling hold and break both his arms and his legs, but when I was still a 9 year old kid, that was a different story entirely.
I went through a phase when I was 9, where I was really fascinated with my uncle. He owned an ATV rental place. His wife, my aunt, is stunningly beautiful. He always blasted Wiz Khalifa at the highest volume possible out of the car stereo of his obsidian black Fiat Abarth. Of course, now I know Nickelback is lame. I listen to stuff like Queen and ACDC while my classmates listen to Jason Derulo and that kind of trash, so my musical tastes have definitely improved from back then.
Anyway, when the opportunity presented itself for me to get closer to my uncle, I took it. I had never gone camping before, but Uncle Greg and Cousin Barry spend a lot of time in the woods, since they’re squatch-hunters, so I felt safe going out there with them. Before you get your hopes up, this isn’t a sasquatch story. We only found some tufts of fur and hoofmarks, but we didn’t see a real cryptid anywhere out there. Honestly, I prefer it that way. As I said, I’m not afraid of anything, but when I was 9 I was more afraid of sasquatch than I was of dogs, and I was very afraid of dogs. Not anymore, though… Not anymore.
The camping trip started out really fun. Uncle Greg had brought some beer and I got to taste a sip of his can and I really liked it. I’m the only one in my class who likes beer to this day so maybe that early start is what caused it. Me and Cousin Barry, who was the same age as me, played in the leaves together and threw stones at trees and took off our shirts and compared muscles. He had a full six-pack, which I didn’t have at that time, but do now. Time passed by us like an arrow and before we knew it, it was night. We set up our tents, me and Cousin Barry were to share one, while Uncle Greg slept alone in the biggest tent.
In the middle of the night, we were awakened by rustling in the leaves. Frightened, I huddled up close to Cousin Barry and burrowed my face into his chest. The tent’s zipper opened. I could feel the pee swelling up in my privates as I trembled in terror. A head emerged. It was just Uncle Greg. Apparently, he had forgotten that he had an important client early in the morning and that he needed to get back to town immediately to prep.
I wasn’t ready to go yet. While this trip was originally just a ploy for me to get closer to Uncle Greg, I was enjoying my time with Cousin Barry so much. I begged and pleaded with him that we could stay behind, suggesting he could just pick us up tomorrow. He happily agreed. Family means a lot to Uncle Greg, so he was exalted to see his nephew and his son finally becoming friends. Me and Cousin Barry had hung out a few times at family reunions and stuff, but for some reason we never quite hit it off. Somehow this camping trip had changed something between us.
After Uncle Greg left us, I couldn’t hold it in anymore, I really needed to pee. Uncle Greg had told us that certain dangerous animals are attracted to the pheromones found in urine, so I had to go away from the camp. Cousin Barry came with me, normally I prefer to pee alone, but for some reason I didn’t mind when it was him.
That’s when disaster struck. If you’ve ever seen that movie “The Blair Witch Project” (the original, not the recent reboot of the same name), you may remember that the protagonists find these weird stick figures. Well, that’s exactly what we found as well. I hadn’t seen the movie at the time, but Cousin Barry had, so he was worried out of his mind. He unholstered his hunting knife and took my hand. I still hadn’t grasped the gravity of the situation, but I felt elated at his touch. We started running.
I don’t know how long we ran for, but suddenly I fell over. My foot had gotten stuck under a heavy root, I think I strained my ankle. I couldn’t run anymore. Luckily, we could hear cars nearby, we were near a road. We couldn’t quite pinpoint the direction it was coming for, but it filled our heavy hearts with hope. Cousin Barry took his knife and carved our names in a tree, so we could know if we were walking in circles. He took me in his tender arms and carried me on. We couldn’t afford to stop.
My heart was beating faster than it ever had before. The determination I could see in his eyes made me feel safe and feeling his heart beat as fast as mine made me feel warm. The sounds of the cars were getting closer. We could even make out a slight glow of headlights in the distance. I still remember the relieved smile I saw on his face. Seeing it made me smile as well, heck, thinking about it still makes me smile to this day. We looked each other in the eyes, saying nothing. We both knew how much this trip had changed us. There was nothing to be left said.
When we finally arrived at the road, Cousin Barry was totally out of breath. So was I, but for a totally different reason. I was filled with all these emotions. Excitement, fear, gratitude, appreciation, confusion. I don’t know why I did it, I’ve seen it in movies and never really understood. I guess it just felt right.
I kissed him, and to my surprise, he kissed me. All of these weird feelings, all of these terrifying events, all of the cars zipping by on the road. None of that mattered anymore. It was just me and him.
That’s when we heard the familiar tunes of Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again”. Apparently, Uncle Greg had been worried and decided to come back for us anyway. He silently threw us in the backseat. He didn’t say anything for the entire car ride home, but I could see his face in the rear view mirror and he wasn’t happy, but I didn’t care what he thought.
I said earlier that I’m no longer afraid of anything. That I don’t cry. That’s not entirely true. Not long after this happened, Cousin Barry was sent off to one of those horrible gay conversion camps. Him and Uncle Greg stopped coming to family reunions. He’s not allowed on any kind of social media. All contact between us has been cut.
The idea that we may never meet again makes me more scared than anything ever did when I was 9 and when I think about what we could have had. That’s when I cry.