We were in Bob Ehrhardt’s basement smoking pot, a towel stuffed under the door to keep any smell away from his parents upstairs, and Shane told us that he had thousands of dollars worth of music equipment at his house. He told us that if we lifted it, he could collect the insurance money. The idea of having all of that gear, even though none of us played an instrument, was intoxicating. We had to have it.
Shane told us he was going out of town with his parents on the night before our graduation, and that he’d leave one of the basement windows open for easy access. All we had to do was get a van, and boom, we’d have all the tools needed for our band. Again, none of us knew how to play any instruments.
Frank, the member of our group who had the most body hair by far, someone we’d known since junior high, bragged that his older sister would lend her boyfriend’s van to us. Even though it was the night before our high school graduation, it was the only night that Shane’s house would be empty, and to celebrate, the four of us dropped a hit of acid about an hour before the heist.
When we arrived around midnight, we were hysterically laughing, part nervousness, but mostly fueled by the drug. Shane lived in a two-story house with a big backyard. We stumbled our way to the back of the house, stifling our giggles, and leaned down to test each basement window. None of them would budge. While cursing Shane, somehow they convinced me to climb onto the roof to see if one of the upstairs bedroom windows was open. I took off my shoes for better traction, they boosted me up, and I climbed toward the dormer closest to me when floodlights appeared in the backyard.
My friends scrambled in three different directions. When I jumped off the roof, it wasn’t because I thought I could fly away. I jumped to try and outrun the cops. The moment my feet landed on the dewy grass and I slid on my back, I knew something more than the police descending on me was wrong. I sat up looking at my mangled bare foot. A second later, two officers trained their lights on me, watching me writhe and scream in pain.
They lifted me in their arms and carried me around to the front of the house where three squad cars had the cherries blazing, and the other cops had my friends handcuffed in a row. My two policemen were gentle when they placed me in the back of one of the cars. Soon we were at the station, all of us shaking, but I was the only one crying. Not out of fear, but from pain. The swelling in my foot made it obscenely large and purple.
Frank did most of the talking, telling the cops that we had a gig that night, and our friend was supposed to leave the equipment out for us. We had to play the gig, and besides, it was our equipment, he insisted. I rocked back and forth, afraid to touch my foot, while Frank detailed his elaborate story. The cops believed us, something I’ve always doubted, or more probably, they just pitied us because of my injury, and they let us go. Bruce and Frank started to carry me out of the police room when they stopped us.
“You need to get yourself to a hospital, son,” one of them said. I always remembered those words because he said it with warmth in his voice, and he called me “son.” We protested, but two of the officers escorted us to the nearest emergency room where the doctor said that I’d crushed four metatarsals, the thin bones that run the length of the foot to the toes. I was frantic. It was close to five in the morning, graduation was less than eight hours away, and after missing my grade school ceremony because my mom got sick the day it happened and there was no one to take me to it, I really didn’t want to miss this one.
Graduation was the last day to see all of my friends gathered in one spot. I knew my parents wouldn’t be there; my dad was busy with his new family and my mom wasn’t speaking to me, but my friends would miss me, or rather, I’d miss them. The hospital sedated me, kept me for the night, and released me from the hospital that afternoon, after graduation already happened, wearing a leaden plaster cast up to my knee with a rubber knob on the bottom, and a pair of crutches.
Later that night when the ceremony was over, and my friends fulfilled their family celebrations, the three of them came over to my apartment. We got stoned and they drew on my cast with a magic marker. We laughed about the adventure, laughed that the cops were stupid enough to buy Frank’s story, laughed over how dumb and boring the ceremony was.
I laughed right along, but I wanted to find out for myself how dumb and boring graduation could be. When they left, I cried, not from the pain, but because I knew I missed out on something essential, something I could never get back.