It’s a well-known lie among teenage boys, all returning to school after the summer with news about their new summer girlfriend.
“New girlfriend? Bull, who is she?”
“Oh, she’s from Canada. You wouldn’t know her.”
I always dreamed of meeting a nice girl over the summer, someone I could sing about in a hackneyed musical and lie to my friends about.
I’ve only ever had one summer girlfriend, but I don’t like to talk about it. I still bear the scars.
I’ve never told anyone this story. No one knows about it except the four other people there; two have died, and one was a baby.
One summer, my mom and stepdad took my brother, sister and me to a campground in Wisconsin. This campground had a bar in it.
We would spend the days at our campsite, sitting around, reading, napping and relaxing. But in the evenings, we would go to the bar, and my sister and I would go to the lounge in the back and play video games.
Even in the 1980s, kids were not allowed in the bar, even to walk to the lounge, but the owner didn’t care. “Excise never checks. You’re just not allowed to hang out in the bar,” he said.
“But Andrew gets to stay,” I said, pointing at my 18-month-old brother, currently sleeping in my mom’s arms.
“Do you want to watch him?” my mom asked.
“No,” I said. Having a kid around would make it hard to meet girls.
“Then he can stay here,” said my mom.
That summer, I had bought a black cowboy hat because it looked cool. I wore it around camp because I thought a summer in another state would be a great time to sharpen my image.
Each night, I put on my black cowboy hat, T-shirt, shorts, tube socks and running shoes in the hopes that I would cut a striking figure in case I met any girls. Pickings are slim at Wisconsin campgrounds, but I always liked playing the long odds.
My sister and I would drink Cokes, play video games, and talk with the other kids whose parents were also sitting in the bar.
For three nights, my new hat and best tube socks had not brought me any luck. At not-yet-15, I was one of the oldest kids there, so I just played video games and waited for my mom and stepdad to finish up.
But not on the last night. On the last night, I met her.
She was short, slender, had brown curly hair, brown eyes and a smile that sparkled. We talked for more than an hour, but it felt like minutes. She laughed at my jokes and touched my arm whenever I said something funny.
She actually didn’t, but in my memory, she did.
Sadly, it was my last night. I was from Indiana, and she was from Wisconsin. We were never going to see each other again.
This was the end of my budding summer relationship.
But wait! She grabbed a pen and a cocktail napkin, and she wrote her address and phone number on it.
I folded it carefully and clutched it in my hand.
I got a girl’s phone number!
I had a summer girlfriend!
My family started walking back to the campsite and were hollering for me to come on.
How could I leave? They were going to ruin everything because we had to “be up early” to drive home.
Oh, great, I can’t talk to my new summer girlfriend because rush hour traffic in the Wisconsin wilderness is sooo heavy.
I kissed the girl goodbye — I really didn’t, but in my memory, I did — and took off after my family.
I couldn’t see the path very well, and everyone was ahead of me, so I jogged to catch up.
In the gloom, I saw another group walking on the path and figured my family was ahead of them. So I veered around them and sped up.
Plowing face-first into a large oak tree.
“Ow, F-word!” I shouted. Only I didn’t say “F-word,” I said the F-word.
My hat flew off my head, and my glasses shoved back onto my face, cutting the bridge of my nose, which started bleeding.
I put my hands over my nose to contain the blood running down my face.
“Not the phone number!” my mom shouted.
But it was too late. The thing I had used to staunch the flow of blood was the phone number and address of my new summer girlfriend.
“S-word!” I shouted. Only I didn’t say… you get the picture.
It turns out I had tried to pass my own family and collided with a stout Wisconsin oak instead.
My stepfather helped me up and said, “I didn’t think you were actually going to run into it, but wow, you smacked face-first.”
We got back to the camp, and I examined the napkin. It was ruined — torn, muddy and covered in blood.
My summer relationship was over as quickly as it started.
I couldn’t read her name or anything else.
I never heard from her either.
Because, like an idiot, I had never given her my own address. We never met again.
And that’s the story of my first summer girlfriend.
I’d ask you to help me find her, so I could tell her what happened, but it doesn’t matter. You wouldn’t know her.