WORDS & IMAGE: BENJAMIN ROMERO '16
In about 1910 or so, a few radical thinkers (mostly socialist, sometimes Jewish) decided to found a "colony." As one did in those days, they sought after lofty things they could not find in the big city, like "tolerance" and "trees." For the grand price of twenty three thousand and three hundred dollars, they bought one hundred and forty acres of land in Chatham, New Jersey. There, they settled. They built. They tolerated.
But like all things, they forgot. Their toleration, their ways; diluted as things came in and out.
IN: More white people; good schools; pizza parties; field day; middle school bullies; Reagan; Junior Prom; granite counter tops; three-door garages; Hampton Road; Wickham Way; Xanax; silence; resigned liberals; my parents; second homes, and third; pilates; ‘accidental’ racism; intentional homophobia; Wall Street; the 6:11; remembering and not.
In about 2012 or so, there were two remaining structures of that tolerated effort. The first houses a hot yoga studio and a frozen yogurt place. The second is the town pool, which inherited the idealistic name ‘Colony.’
'Colony’ is owned and operated by the town government. As thorough supporters of small government and conspicuous consumption, Chatham residents relegate it to the bottom of the social totem poll, far below the other swim clubs named Minisink, Noe, and other mildly offensive allusions to forgotten Native Americans. It's the type of place newcomers join. Years later, you'll remind your mother of that first summer, and she'll look off, swirl her chardonnay, and say something like, "Oh yes, remember when you found a nail in the sand?"
For a summer in high school, I worked the snackbar at Colony. My best friend, Tom, had been an excellent little league player, and as such, had quite a good relationship with Mr. McNanny, the athletic director of the town, who, for reasons obvious to people who grew up in the suburbs, had accumulated various other positions of power in the town. Thus, I found myself employed in a uniform of heinous purple tie-die t-shirts.
Trish "ran" the snackbar. She was a rare breed of "hated fourth grade teacher" in one of the elementary schools, and she (characteristically) mandated the purple tie-dye and (generally) made everyone's lives harder. She lived with her parents and dressed solely in Old Navy tank tops. This was a point of pride on her part about ‘pragmatic style’ in whimsy colors. In a particularly cruel act of the universe, this was the worst possibly constructed garment for her. All of the weight in her body had disproportionately collected in the middle, as if her intestines had a gravitational pull. Imagine, for lack of a better metaphor, playdough with tooth pick limbs. Then, add an Old Navy tank top. And a phone that incessantly played Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie” as a ringtone. Which only left a poorer taste in your mouth when you learned she was having an affair with the married McNanny. And flirting with the Director of Waste Disposal who came every other Tuesday to empty the dumpster.
On the last day of the summer, Trish imploded. Tom had changed the heating lamp light bulb without asking Trish, Trish called home the assistant manager, Helen, who had gone back to college in Pennsylvania, and had spent the day interrogating people in the freezer.
She called us one by one into the back freezer, to request our knowledge of the incident.
"Do you know how this happened"
"Tom changed the lightbulb."
"Do you think he had the necessary permissions to do that?"
"I mean, it's a lightbulb."
As I waited by the gate for my mom to pick me up that night, I sat with Helen, Tom, and the lifeguard who fucked Kyle McLaughlin in the men’s showers. We talked a bit about remembering, and not. I was leaving for boarding school in a few days, and everything seemed to be all about "forward" and "fast."
"Do you think you'll remember me?" the lifeguard with the predilection for erotic hygiene said.
I bit into an ice cream sandwich, and I remember it tasted exactly like burnt marshmallow.