When I went to Camp Shomria last year in Liberty, NY, I brought along a permanent marker to label my possessions. It may seem hypocritical to take so much time labeling your stuff at a socialist summer camp, but after all, everyone’s socks and underwear look pretty much the same. The marker I brought with me was a Sharpie brand, and it was thick and gray with a big black felt tip. I liked the way it felt in my hand and how the ink glided so smoothly over everything. When I was bored or just felt like fidgeting, I’d take it out and write on anything nearby. I labeled my hands “hand” and “other hand” and my feet “foot” and “other foot.” I wrote “bench” on the benches and “table” on the tables and “rock” on the rocks. I wrote my name above my bed and I scrawled messages and song lyrics everywhere. This was just fine, since graffiti is allowed and even encouraged at Shomria. The arts and crafts barn, called the Refet, is completely covered with layers and layers of painted signatures dating back to the ‘40’s. When I looked around inside, I might see the names of my father’s friends, or people who I loved like family, or knew briefly, or never met at all. Many of the people must still have been out in the world somewhere, while others must have disappeared or died. Not surprisingly, it was my favourite building.
I continued carrying my Sharpie with me everywhere, but once I started drawing elaborate henna-like designs on my arms I knew it was time to give it up. I handed over my marker to my counselor, Mike, and made him promise to keep it safe for me. This renouncement did not last long, however. I soon took back my Sharpie, but lent it out again to one of my friends so he could make a sign for the playground we were building near the bathrooms. When I got it back, I was dismayed to find that the ink had run out. With a heavy heart, I was forced to give up my Sharpie for good and dispose of it in a nearby garbage can. Not much time had gone by, though, when I was walking through one of the fields and spotted a black object lying in the grass. I leaned closer, and found that it was a black permanent marker, just like the one I had lost! My heart feather-light with joy, I clutched the marker in my mosquito-bitten hands and looked around for something new to leave a mark on.
I have to write at least 3 more of these thangs. The project we're doing is so cool. We have to write a bunch of personal essays and then make some sort of creative project, like a collage, or a scrapbook, or a decorative potholder made out of our essays. It's titled "Stuff that Happened to Me." If I do a collage, I might need some pictures of the Refet later on if anyone has them, so start digging around if you suspect that you do.