One of my favorite kids from camp is a little fifth form boy named Mahammad. Mahammad was a late addition to camp - ha hadn't turned in an application during the school year, but during the first week of camp, his grandmother came to me and asked if he could come. She explained to me that everyday when he saw us all going off to camp, he just cried and cried because he couldn't go. Bleeding heart that I am, I of course said yes, he could absolutely join camp.
Mahammad is one of those kids who is kind of a pain in the butt a lot times, but you still just love the little punk. For those of you Herndon readers from my childhood, he is a lot like Tom McCammon as a kid. Imagine Tom as you read this story, and you've got a pretty good image of Mahammad. For the rest of you, just imagine THAT kid from elementary school. You know the one I'm talking about. Over the course of camp, I had developed a pretty good rapport with Mahammad and had gotten pretty good at managing his punkiness.
On one of the last days of camp Jaclyn, his group leader for the week, came to me and pulled me out of my class. She told me that Mahammad had asked to go home because he had a headache, but half an hour later, she saw him wandering around the school. Concerned, we went outside to look for him. When he saw us approaching, he started to walk away. I called out to him and told him I just wanted to talk to him. I asked him to come over to me. He paced a little and asked me, just me, to come to him instead. I looked at Jaclyn and walked over.
I told him I was worried and asked if he was ok. (Please note - this entire conversation was in Azeri.) He sadi yes he was fine, but he had to leave for the day. I asked what was wrong. He paced a little more, thought hard, and then asked me to promise mot to tell anyone. Deeply concerned now I said ok.
He told me he loved a girl in his group. (Another note - the polite way to say you love someone in azeri is "men bir qiz isteyirem." Which directly translates as "I want a girl." It's one of the weirdest things about this language that still cracks me up.) I asked what girl. More pacing. Some deep sighs. He placed his hand on his head and made me swear I wouldn't tell. I had to give this vow about 4 times before he finally told me her name. I won't reveal it - I did give my word - but she is a sweet little girl and VERY cute. His heart chose well.
As the conversation continued, he explained to me that he loved this girl and it was just too hard for him to stay in the class that day. At this point, my glee was getting a bit difficult to conceal in this - for him - very serious conversation. Swallowing a giggle, I told him that I understood. It was ok.
We talked a little more, then I extracted a promise from him to return to camp the next day, yet again swearing that his secret was safe with me, and sent him and his aching heart on their way home.