When I arrived at the camp about a month before this Tate Modern visit, I quickly decided to align myself with the French girls. Campers came from around Europe and the United States, and the Parisians clearly wore the chicest clothes, had the slimmest figures, and attracted the cutest boys: I was enamored with one named Tristan. He hung out with a girl named Alix, who was also an excellent tennis player and spoke flawless English because she’d been raised by an American nanny. Forget about improving my Spanish—all I wanted was for Tristan to kiss me and Alix to like me.
In my efforts to win approval from the French, I mostly neglected the two girls who actually seemed interested in becoming my friends: Americans named Christina and Frankie. Christina wore a lot of black clothing and eyeliner. Her pants featured metal grommets. Frankie was quiet, with some freckles. She was reading Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984). We chatted about books—I was halfway through Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible (1998)—but I didn’t want to become a nerd who sat around and read a lot, and I definitely didn’t want to be seen with a goth.
I got my comeuppance during the weekend interval between the two, two-week-long camp sessions. I was one of only a handful of girls who were staying for both, and they all decided to room without me. I spent a couple of nights, all alone, in a bunk with one of the counselors. Meanwhile, I continued to write sunny emails to my best friend back home, who’d started smoking pot in her pool house and hot tubbing with boys while I was gone. A rift was growing between us, too.