Every Morning After Breakfast, the Whole Camp Gathers in Assembly Hall to Sing
We boys, in our low-noted sections, mumble the lyrics to the folk songs and South African traditionals. We hope the choir director won’t point to us, won’t call forth voice-cracking solos. We sneak looks at the girls in their sections and hide our morning wood behind splayed open songbooks.
I do not watch the sopranos or the altos or the tenors beside me: I am in love with Bethany, the girl who sings bass. No one would guess it just by looking at her, but a sonorous sound quakes from her thin throat. It makes my teeth rattle and ache.
Elsewhere she is quiet, soft-spoken. She doesn’t break into solos on the soccer field or at dinner, though I keep an ear turned toward her just in case.
One afternoon, I watched her swim in the pond. She stayed behind when her friends headed back to the cabins. I knew this was it, my chance to talk to her, but I could feel my tongue drying out, I was already forgetting what I’d planned to say.
She looked around as if to make sure she was alone, then pulled herself onto the dock, algae-tinted drops dripping from her elbows. There, she began to sing, a song I didn’t know, a subterranean hum. It made my ears pop.
Soon, the pond was bubbling like it was boiling, and at the lowest note, the deepest dip of her murmuring, fish rose lifeless to the surface, bullfrogs floated belly up, and I tried to echo her incantations, tried to reach the deepest depths of her range, a harmony, a round, hoping she’d hear the sound coming from the tall grass where I lay, hoping she’d turn to look, to listen for what was there.