This one time, I thought I could climb a tree.

 

*This post is dedicated to Scottie P.

Movies always make a really big deal out of the protagonist, or sometimes a supporting character going off to college. The impression I get from most movies is that the 18 year old character usually knows who they are by the time they leave for college and the transition is a bittersweet spreading of wings that’s particularly difficult for the parents as they struggle to see their child as an adult.

Like a lot of movies, this never actually translates to real life. I mean, have you ever met a college freshman that came off as a responsible adult? I for one certainly didn’t feel like an adult when I moved into the college dorms at 18. Romantic teen movies never show the couple breaking up just a month or two after the two love-birds go off to different schools and Coming-of-age movies never show the hero or heroine having a crisis of identity after whatever crisis in the movie gets resolved. More often than not, movies don’t show you what real life actually turns out to be.

Most debutantes from wealthy families don’t marry below their class in the name of true love. Most friendships don’t stand the test of time. And when you’re climbing up a tree to join some friends up there—you’re more likely to fall and mess up your ankle than you are to join them for a deep conversation about life as the camera slowly pans out to show the starry sky above you.

Now, the place I went to school had a big river running through the middle of campus with several bridges connecting the banks. One of the main brides runs right over the dam and if you live in the dorms by the dam there are a few trails you can take down to the river bank. Sometimes, when the weather is nice, you can spot people fishing down by those paths.

The floor I lived on my freshman year was full of people who were very good at drinking. Lots of people in college are very good at drinking, but these guys were real pros. To me, they all looked like they were the heroes and heroines of those “going off to college” movies and I felt more like an extra crossing the background in their movies.

I really do have to hand it to them though, they came up with better “movie things” than anyone I’ve ever met. Some protagonist on that floor invented the weekly tradition of Tropical Tuesday—which was a perfect excuse to wear Hawaiian shirts and drink lots of rum. This really broke up the week if you couldn’t didn’t want to wait for Thirsty Thursday to roll around.

This particular week, Tropical Tuesday laid the groundwork for disaster. Thanks to an older friend I had known back in high school, I was able to acquire a rather large amount of rum for my tropical endeavors. I specifically remember three other guys being with me for this adventure. There might have been more people there, but I’m certain that Joey, Scottie, and Alex were with me when we staggered out of the dorms and headed down one of the little paths that ran down to the river by the damn.

Someone started singing “Build Me Up, Buttercup” while someone else found a stick and flung it into the river. While all this was going on, I looked up and noticed that Alex had climbed up one of the trees by the bank. That looked like a perfectly fine thing to do and I started to climb up the tree to join him. If I had been the hero of a “going off to college” movie, the director might have elected to put a song in the background—maybe a musical riff from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

“Yo, Keegan!” I remember Alex calling down from the tree. “That’s not a good idea. If you try and climb up here, you’ll probably fall.”

“Screw you!” I called back, “I know how to climb a tree!”

That was the last thing I remember saying before I noticed the rocks rushing up to meet me.

“You dumb bastard.” Someone said as the helped me to my feet.

“I’m fine, I’m fine.” I insisted.

“I told you so, dumbass.”

Alex and Scottie supported my arms and helped me hobble back to the dorms.

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To be totally honest with you, I probably should have gone to the hospital a lot sooner than I did. Three days after my fall from the tree I dragged my injured leg down the hall and into the shower. When I looked down at my ankle, an angry purple grapefruit looked back at me from where my ankle joint had been.

When I finally sat down in the examination room, I turned on the TV while I waited for the medical staff. After flipping through a few channels I found one of my favorite movies, The Pirates of the Caribbean. I got to watch a few scenes from the movie and was in the process of reflecting on how rum never seems to cause any problems for Jack Sparrow when the doctor came in.

I flipped off the TV and rolled up my pant leg to answer his question of, “So! What brings you in today?” The doctor took one look at the battered baseball that was currently attaching my foot to my leg and said, “Wow. I bet that’s broken!” Then, and I promise I’m not making this up, he paused and said in the most upbeat voice I’ve ever heard, “But I’ve been known to be wrong!”

Great. So here I am with a busted up ankle and a doctor with a self-professed reputation for misdiagnosing his patients. I had an x-ray done and the doctor was, in fact, wrong. Instead of breaking my ankle, I had torn three ligaments in it. He prescribed me some pain killers, gave me a boot to wear for the next six weeks, and sent me on my way.

Contrary to what you might expect, I actually really liked wearing that boot around. I enjoyed the attention I got for it and a lot of the people in class seemed to get a real kick out of my story.  I had liked Pirates of the Caribbean before all of this, but I started to like it a lot more with some of the rum related jokes I started telling to spice up the story.

I have no idea what Alex and Joey are up to these days. I haven’t seen Scottie in a while, but he’s extremely talented when it comes to letting people know that he still thinks fondly of them. About a week ago I got this text from him:

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So thanks Scottie! This one’s for you.

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