It was my first time camping with virtual strangers. The only people I knew sitting around the bonfire that evening were my high school boyfriend Jonah, his cousin Alex and Alex’s girlfriend Miriam, both of whom I’d met only once, at Christmas. We were camping with a mix of their friends. They were all a year older than us, at 18.
We all pitched in money for a certain amount of food and alcohol that weekend. I had been extremely cautious never to overtake my fair share. I had nursed one beer all afternoon and into the evening and eaten only a handful of chips. Now we were roasting hot dogs over the open flame, and my stomach was rumbling in gleeful anticipation.
Alex announced, “there’s only one hot dog left!”
“I’ll take it,” said a brunette sitting directly across the fire from me.
I nudged Jonah in desperation. I wanted that hot dog so bad, I could almost taste it. He stood up for me. “Well, Alexis hasn’t had any hot dogs yet.”
“Who the hell’s that?” Asked the girl, unable to deduce he was talking about me. I raised my hand meekly. She looked at me and rolled her eyes. I didn’t feel bad though. I had seen her scarf down at least two hot dogs throughout the course of the day already.
Alex cooked the dog for me and handed it to me on a styrofoam plate. I rested the plate on my lap and leaned back to grab a bun from the bag on the table behind me. I must have leaned back just a tad too far because before I knew it, the hot dog had rolled off of my plate and into the outer rim of the fire pit! The other girl shot me the dirtiest look. Her eyes pierced menacingly through my skull.
I was mortified, but I acted fast. I didn’t hesitate to snatch the hot dog back up from fire pit and back onto my plate. It was covered in soot from the fire.
“You don’t have to eat that,” Jonah whispered, knowing what was happening inside my head.
He was wrong. It was disgusting, but I did have to eat it. I couldn’t give that other girl the satisfaction of not eating it. I couldn’t ruin the last remaining hot dog. That wasn’t happening.
“I want to eat it,” was my petulant reply. “I’ll just wash it off.”
I ran to the camping bathrooms down the path and did a quick rinse of the hot dog in the sink. There. It looked fine now. I returned to the campfire and made a big show of dressing my hot dog with ketchup and mustard at the table. I made sure to sit back down and make direct eye contact with my adversary through the flames as I took the first delicious bite. Yum.
The food poisoning set in about three hours later. Jonah and I had just settled into our tent when I felt something shift in my stomach. I found myself running to those camping bathrooms again for dear life. I urgently pushed past a tall girl with stone grey eyes and dark skin in front of the park. To this day, I’m not sure if she was real, or just an illusion. A manifestation of the hysteria that was happening inside my body.
I almost didn’t make it to the stall. The hot dog and that handful of chips were violently expelled through any orifice possible. Cold sweats drenched my body and mixed with my tears. I cried out, I heaved, I wretched. I must have been in there for at least an hour before feeling well enough to return to my tent. By then I was feeling extremely weak.
As I washed my hands, I noticed a note by the sink I hadn’t seen before. “Water not suitable for consumption.”
Huh. Well, that explained it. I probably would have been better off eating the unrinsed soot dog. Oh well.
I was still glad I got to eat that very last hot dog instead of that other girl.