Scout & Birdie
Scout & Birdie

the smell of sunscreen invades my nostrils
i am transported back to my mother's laundry room
a sticky hot summer day
i am forcibly lathered in sunscreen
get on a rusting school bus
take me to a dreaded day of summer camp

when the smell of sunscreen hits my nose
my stomach immediately tightens itself
twists about in a
hokey pokey of anxiety and fear
camp is a most dangerous time

the bus takes us down a path i still don't recognize
i see it every day
my face is hot from my pouring tears that are only now starting to dry
my stuffed nose will barely let me breathe
we enter the fenced in camp grounds
i get off the bus

under my feet the chalky gravel crunches
i stomp my feet to cloud myself in its dust
maybe i will disappear before they can find me
i never do

my feet drag themselves across dark grass
peppered with the faded brown of a dried out weed
past the swimming pool
past the arts and crafts building
beyond the dark path of the woods
after we reach the edge of the delicious dark wood of the girl's tent
a color so rich i can taste it as i remember it
once we've trekked through the open field leaving the baseball diamond behind
i am in a tent filled with picnic benches
the aggressive buzz of chatter amongst the campers
far from where the bus dropped off
so far from home

i am in the boy’s tent
the sports camp tent
the girls are in the cabin
i want to be in the girl’s cabin
they don’t have to roll around in dirt
point an arrow at a target that always seems to move at the last second
the deep dark wood protects their skin from the sun
it’s acceptable for them
to spend so much time in the arts and crafts building
firing terracotta clay balls molded into vases
that store dreams on their grandma’s kitchen table
they aren’t expected to have a dexterity to throw a ball across a field
they don’t need to risk life and limb to catch a ball hurdling towards the green
these are not stars that have fallen from the sky
i am a foreigner
tortured against my will to
play games i will never win
use skills i will never acquire
achieve acclaim i will never want my tiny heart to hold

behind a beige brick wall
i curl into myself cowering in a corner
we strip ourselves bare and get ready to swim
my eyes travel around trying to sneak glimpses of the other boys' bodies
my curiosity gets the better of me
i am distracted
and confused
and the cocoons in my stomach are turning into butterflies but i don’t know why
i am acutely aware that my stomach is rounder than the rest
this daily task continues to threaten me
with an exposure i cannot define

years later
i still cannot forget the way the protective sunscreen became toxic
memories flood back in the way colors blend in a kaleidoscope
going from one shape to the next until they are undefinable
some how i know
i am crying in the shower
i am not what they expected me to be
i am not who they planned i would become
to them
i am not right
to me
i am wrong

i make myself small
slowly start to disappear
trace the bones
watch the color fade from my cheeks

late in the night i sneak down to the family room
i know which steps will creak and know how to step over them
i fear my mom can hear the quiet creaks of the steps
i'm holding my breath
somehow i know she knows what i'm doing
she can find it in the candy wrappers
granola bar casings
empty bags of chips
i've hidden in couch cushions
under garbage in the trash can
i mask my garbage with their garbage
the only light comes from the refrigerator and dim glow of the television
i move faster than my mind can comprehend
i am watching myself from on high
i forget to breathe
i feel sick
i am empty still

i haven't been swimming in years
the last time i was
i don't know how the weight of it all
didn't pull me to the bottom

i fear the exposure of the water
but respect the strength of the tide
i see the beauty in the ocean and the freedom in her depths
pick up a seashell
hear her calling me faintly to a time i wish were different

singe the photographs
forget the memories
bathe in aloe gel to sooth the burns

stand right where
the sand kisses the waves
burn me all to the ground
place the ashes in a terracotta urn
i molded at summer camp
i will try to rise anew

in the darkest hour
you just might see
the flame of a phoenix


About the author...

Joey Lubelfeld is a freelance producer and director with a background in devised work. Chicago: work with The Whiskey Rebellion, Skokie Theatre, Headline Theater, Israel Horivtiz’s Beirut Rocks and Paula Vogel’s The Baltimore Waltz. London: Stop, And… (a devised documentary piece in collaboration with Anna Herman of Clean Break) and Queervolution (a devised piece produced as a part of the ZU-UK’s House of Healing). Assistant directing: Grant James Varjas’ Accidentally, Like a Martyr (A Red Orchid Theatre; dir. Shade Murray) and Tom Weber’s Genomenon (Piven Theatre Workshop; dir. Benno Nelson) among others. NYC: work with the Brooklyn Actor’s Troupe. 

Administratively, Joey has worked with A Red Orchid Theatre and Northlight Theatre (Chicago) as well as The TEAM (NYC) in casting, literary, education, and development positions. Currently, Joey serves as the Managing Director for Red Theater Chicago ( He is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago and University of East London.