Christian Barter

Band Camp

We were so proud of our fifths of vodka

lying next to each other in Tom’s trumpet case

like two long crystals harvested

from the dark cave of high school’s first three years


and while less fortunate kids fingered

over and over through that one difficult passage,

Tom and I floated around campus cracking

jokes and chatting up the prettiest girls,


the prettiest, most serious of whom was Amy,

who came up to me after with her saxophone

draped around her tan neck and decreed

that we should all “drink beers” that night—


me having used that ridiculous line when we met—

and, lo, she had already gotten some

drooling 21-year-old from town

to stack them behind a bush, and when


after a day of careening back roads

in her friend’s mom’s car and belting with Tom

the Doors and whatever else came to mind,

the other kids were jerking uncomfortably


to that summer’s teeny-bop at the band camp dance,

Amy and I strolled beneath those genuine

college campus trees, making out

whenever we felt like it.  I see that I have


descended again to loving those days, though

when I woke up in the middle of the night

remembering those two bottles nestled in the case,

I was thinking what a waste I had made


of band camp, that but for drinking, and drugs later,

and all those tan necks, I might have been

a real musician in a real ensemble, wearing

an honest-to-God bowtie, gliding


through important passages.  One of those

nights, before I went back to the cave from which

I was too proud to return letters,

I snuck her into my room where


in the moonlight on clinically white bed sheets

I revealed myself as a klutzy sixteen-year-old

and she as a good Catholic.  After doing

nothing of lasting importance, exhausted, half-


crazed and half as someone woken up

after a long sleep, and having no idea

what a regretful, sober man I would be

at thirty-two, I said, “I love you,”


and she said, “Do you mean it?” and I, having

not yet learned the scales, the passages

of “I don’t know,” said, “Yes.”



Band Camp first appeared in the North American Review, Nov-Dec 2002.