It’s the first night at blind camp this year.
Our counselors tell us to go to bed, so Leah, Monica, Eva and I have to return to our room. Monica wants to go to bed and keeps telling us to shut up. We try to talk quietly until she falls asleep. Eva and I tell Leah about my first year when we went on an overnight campout in tents and I stepped in a huge pile of dog shit and didn’t know it and they made me throw my shoes outside.
After we all stop laughing, Leah says, “So hey, where do albinos come from?”
Eva bursts back into loud giggles.
I’m a little stunned. I’m fourteen and I live in a world where “albino” isn’t often spoken. The sound of the word always stops me. “What?”
“Well, like, where are you guys from?”
Eva calms down enough to tell her, “They’re not from anywhere.”
“Oh,” Leah says, laughing at herself. “I thought maybe it was a country, like Albania or something,” then she laughs at herself for not knowing. I tell her it’s a genetic condition but not linked to nationality. I could go on to talk about recessive genes and all that, but I don’t. Eva keeps teasing Leah for asking and Leah keeps laughing and after a defensive moment or two on my part, I start laughing too.
Suddenly Monica jumps out of bed. “Holy shit! I forgot my pantyhose!” she yells and lies back down into sleep. We re-double over with laughter.
This is an excerpt from a long-form memoir project I’m working on called Eclipses of Jupiter, about growing up with albinism. There are a lot of chapters devoted to stories and experiences from different blind camps and programs and this is from the chapter on my third summer at Camp Marcella, at age fourteen.
I changed all the names (I usually do). Seems only right.
Check out the Samples Page, as well as Published and Early Work, to read more of my writing.
- Music Takes Me Back – Camp Marcella 1993
- Reading Eyes and Faces
- My Face
- Writing as Time Travel
- She’s a Girl Rising From a Shell
“Albania”?!! Every time I think my opinion of the American educational system couldn’t fall any lower, it surprises me.
Hahaha, well now I feel like I have to come to her defense a little, since I wrote it and she is someone I became really close to as a teenager (and wish I was still as close to now). She just didn’t know. Albinism isn’t something that’s usually talked about in school (except sometimes when kids are learning some basic genetics) and there would never be enough time, even in a great educational system (I don’t have a ton of faith in ours either – as someone who tutors college students in science I see some interesting things and I’ll just leave it at that) to discuss every different condition. So, I don’t know, I just want to be careful not to have her come off bad because I think she just didn’t know. And at least she asked. A lot of people never question their crazy wrong assumptions, so there’s that. :)
What an interesting story! Good luck with your memoir!
Thanks Ganymeder! I’m sure I’ve said it before during the years of Friday Flash but what the hell? Your name is awesome!
Heh. To be fair myself, I have to admit “Albania as the albino homeland” is a rather ingenious guess.
When I was about three I heard ppl on the news talking about “time zones,” and also TV talking heads referring to this or that country as being “still in the stone age.” So I put them together and came up with the idea that all the different times in history were different places in the world — WWII was going on in one place, knights in another, cavemen in another, etc. It didn’t help that when I asked my grandmother, obviously befuddled as to what I was getting at, she said she thought that was how things worked.
Hahaha, that is a great story! How did you eventually find out how it worked?
That would be pretty cool if it were true…
Can’t remember. I imagine the disillusionment was a lot more boring than the idea itself.
I bet! The idea is really cool. Might be something you could work into a story idea or something. I know you read a lot of science-fiction and it sounds like the kind of thing that could lend itself to a sci-fi story.
Unfortunately I don’t have the gift for writing fuction at all without it sounding wooden and didactic.
That surprises me. Especially since you read so much.