Americans love camps. It’s like their national pastime or something. When they’re not eating individual portions designed for entire Catholic families or shooting each other under the loving embrace of the Bill of Rights,* they go on camps. Americans have camps for everything. Summer Camps, High School camps, Wilderness Camps. Girl Scout Camps. Fat Camps. Oprah Camps. This may-or-may-not be a cult camps. Offended by MK Tales Camps. You name it. A nation of campers. So, because we were an American International school, we had camps too. And I loved all those camps. Camps were a good idea. All that outdoorsy stuff. Gave you inspiration. And hepatitis. And some kind of fungal growth on your nether-regions. Just a few of the things that made camping great. Until Chris died at camp. On my Birthday. Selfish.
It was our Grade 10 camp, out in the middle of nowhere in the Mountains. The first night we spent setting up the tents and making ‘lavatory pits’ which some teacher felt was a necessary part of the experience. Me? I would have been happy finding a shrub and a smooth stone somewhere, but apparently the chicks needed amenities. For example, a tarp on a frame that blew around in the wind. It gave you privacy not dissimilar to a giant box made of Cling Wrap. Us boys shared a tent with Mr Kliewer, one of the teachers. There was a 2nd male teacher along for the camp, but he overheard Luis saying how he’d never share a tent with him. That teacher slept in the pickup by himself that night. I think the hearty glow of growing bitterness kept him warm inside.
That night, Chris, Luis, myself and some others went looking for adventure. On this particular night, ‘adventure’ meant finding the biggest boulder we could and hurling it down the mountainside. The one we found must have weighed around half a ton or something, cause it took 5 of us to budge it, even after digging it out with one of the latrine shovels we stole. I’m sure there were complaints about the missing shovel, but hey, if you need to bury something that hefty after a bowel movement, you have more serious issues than we have time for here. Eventually we dislodged the boulder, laughing and shouting gleefully as it smashed downwards into oblivion, in all likelihood destroying farmhouses and sheep and alpaca herds as it went. We had no idea, because in the morning we couldn’t find the place where we had dug it out. It’s amazing we made it back to camp the previous night at all. Chris had complained a little about his back, but we were kinda used to it and paid him no mind. He had crashed his motorbike a year or so before and hurt his back somehow after flying through the air at the speed of sound and landing on his neck on cobble stones.
The next day we walked about 56 miles in the desert heat to some old ruins. Despite the walk, they were fairly boring ruins. I bet there had been more on the Inca site to see before the air warmed up to about 500º and melted everything in sight. I didn’t let the negative murmurings around me get the best of my disposition though. Even when Chris threw a rock and knocked over my thermos, causing my water to empty and evaporate in seconds. I survived the trip back by drinking my own urine. Filtered through yesterday’s underwear; the fungus killing off any competition. Chris didn’t cope with the hike too well. Perhaps his bra strap was too tight, since he was clutching his back the whole time. Regardless, once we got back to camp, he just collapsed in the tent and was out like a light. Slept for hours. Luis, forgetting Chris was even in there, tripped over him at one point and got nothing. Out. Cold. Not even a groan. Chris didn’t come out for dinner and still hadn’t risen by the time we were playing camp games around the fire, trying to lure unsuspecting females away from the pack and celebrating my birthday with a dubious-looking cake Miss Norrish, our English teacher, had made for me. I think sand was the primary ingredient. The night was growing long. It was then I realized that Chris must in fact, be dead. I was overcome with sadness. He owed me $50, and now, obviously, a birthday present. I sat away from the fire, shivering in the darkness. Imagining his rigor-mortis in the tent and reminiscing about all the fun we’d had together and how I could somehow blog about the adventures one day, tarnishing his memory with one-sided stories.
In the middle of my depressive stupor (possibly enhanced by the sand-cake,) the tent flap flew open and out stumbled Chris! He was alive! Mostly. He still looking kinda groggy and was bumping into everything. He may have said some things he would later ‘forget’ once on the witness stand. But he was ok. That was the main thing. Explanatory things and etcetera etcetera:
Chris, exhausted and suffering searing back pain from walking in the desert by day & hoisting boulders by night, and getting about 0% sympathy from his friends, collapses in the tent to get some shut-eye. Mr Kliewer, recognizing his state, plies him with pain killers to help him sleep. Miss Norrish, arriving later, and unaware of Mr Kliewer’s previous medications, gives him more pain killers, essentially turning Chris’ brain into a big bowl of tapioca. So he wasn’t dead at all! He just OD’d on teacher-administered pain killers. And that’s how lawsuits are born kids!
The original plan for camp was to hike back to town a few days later, but what with Chris’ overdose and all, the teachers decided we’d spend the rest of the week at a hotel down in the valley in the hope that we’d just forget about what happened. There we lived the life of luxury complete with a pool and bar fridges full of coke in our rooms. So the pain was worth it. Beginners tip: While your school pays for camp, it doesn’t pay for 153 bottles of coke on your bar fridge tab.
Years later, back in the US, Chris discovered he had a fractured vertebrae the whole time. Whoops. Maybe we should have paid more attention. Or preferably, dosed him with more drugs.
*Sorry kids, I really do like Americans.