It was unusual for only two of us to be at the lodge at any one time, and strictly speaking, it was not allowed, but that’s the predicament Denise and I found ourselves in that weekend.
The year was 1999 and gas was high at $2 a gallon. We were both working at Michiana Christian Summer camp and while I lived there full time, she was only there during the day.
I worked in maintenance, which meant that I not only had to clean the cafeteria/gym and bathrooms 3 times a day, I had to fix whatever broke, and do all of the landscaping work.
Denise worked in the office on a computer. It was air conditioned. I would see her when I went into the office to take out the trash and vacuum the carpet. She was always nice to see.
We would all eat together in the staff area of the cafeteria. Some days I’d pour my water on her head just for fun. It was fun. At night she’d run the concession stand near the pool.
That Saturday morning I asked her if she wanted to go to the beach. To my surprise, she said, “Yes”. We drove up from Niles to St. Joseph, Michigan where US 31 ends, and Lake Michigan begins.
There was a bend in the road near Berrien Spring where Denise made a cross sign on her chest as we passed. Her friend had died there the year before. She wanted to stop to test drive a new vehicle.
I helped her look at the SUV she had been eyeing and then we continued on to Silver Beach. When we got there I realized I didn’t have any swimming trunks so we went to a shop there on the beach.
I picked out a green pair of swimming trunks and asked Denise what she thought. She didn’t care. I asked her if she was going to swim. She was not. She sat on the beach while I plunged into the water.
On the way back to the car a train came. I asked her if I ran to get on the train if she would go with me. She said she would. I didn’t run.
We stopped at McDonalds on the way back to camp, but she wouldn’t let me buy her lunch. “It wasn’t a date,” she said. And I knew that.