The Burden of Empathy : Chapter 8

Chapter 8 

It was 7:45 when I woke up.  My tour of Humboldt state wasn’t until 11.  So I knew my parents wouldn’t be up until nine.  So I just lied on the bed trying to remember my dream as best as I could so I could interpret it.  First I thought of the beginning of my second dream.  How I was telling the girl I struck she should be with me.  I just shook my head and chalked it up to the drugs I was on the previous day.  Why would a sensible progressive guy like me be interested in a trendy shallow rich girl like that?   Maybe I wasn’t interested in her, but what she and the boy had that I didn’t.  

Then I thought about the first dream I had and just reveled in how awesome of a dream it had been at first and how it will never happen in real life.  Then I realized something.  I don’t know what it was but all of a sudden, I stopped doubting myself.  

I stopped questioning myself.  I stood up, looked in the mirror, and looked at myself as close as I could.  I realized I’m really not ugly, I don’t want to sound like a jerk and say I’m the best looking mother fucker  of all time, but I know there are people a lot uglier than me.  Hell, I thought, if it weren’t for the fact that I might be a killer, I could get any girl I wanted.  Hell, I could still get a hot girl now, some chicks dig criminals.  Who knows, this could actually turn out to be the best thing I’ve ever done.  The truth was I vented a lot of stored up anger on that guy, and though its debatable whether or not he deserved it, its damn well to say I got all of the frustration and rage I stored over the years from abuse and regret out of my system.  I don’t know how the dreams had led me to this realization, but I had accepted that it was all in the past and there is nothing left to do but move on and focus on the now.  

Hell, I realized the future isn’t even a real thing to worry about either and even if it was I shouldn’t be worried about getting caught or not, I should worry whether or not that the couple is alive and okay.  It was still heavy on my mind, but I had a tour of my potential future college, so everything else would have to wait.

Suddenly, inspiration struck.  I grabbed my pen and paper and scribbled this.

The system goes around in circles…

Everything is just a copy

Life’s laws scribbled on hypocritical neckties

One cannot teach character

Give them your money, they wouldn’t lie to us

We must hang on to innocence, We must preserve and protect

We will not accept mistakes

Innocence doesn’t exist past puberty

Those who cling don’t live

WE are all guilty

We are all responsible

We are a pack of pussies too afraid to think beyond our senses

Reach out and you might touch anything

Gasp in awe to the offensive sight

Go ahead and judge, you’ll never understand

Go ahead and fuck your propaganda

We will continue to destroy all that you love

My usual gibberish.  But the juices kept flowing.

Sirens rise from the earths cracks

In a fiery Brimstone haze

God sends his own muse to put them down

If you’re lucky enough to witness, ignore your phallic urges

Or ignorant customs

The goat I slaughtered will make a grand snack for this spectacle

Like a bag of Orville Redenbacher’s at the movies

Should we help the muse?

What!? And ruin the show and the new painting.

Greedy bastard

He sent the muse for you and you let her struggle

Insolent pig

Go fuck yourself

Yeah, just my usual gibberish.



My parents finally woke up at 8:45, and we just got breakfast out of the cooler.  At first I thought my parents were being cheap, but then I remembered the economy is in shambles and they need to save every penny they could since the state was going to cut my moms and other teachers pay.  I then felt guilty as to what a fool I’ve been.  I should be grateful for all my parents have done for me and I shouldn’t be bitching over the luxuriousness of my breakfast, hell it’s a privilege just to afford eating out every day.

“Have I ever thanked you guys for everything you’ve done for me and Jill?”  It was all I said, and all my parents said was, “Thank you,” they were truly touched though.  I just wanted to share a moment like this before I get taken away.  I was still a bit nervous about that, but I would just take it as it comes.  I still flinched at every siren within ear shot.

After a breakfast of old hard boiled eggs, yogurt, orange juice, and three mikes hard lemonades, a few lines of Vicodin, and another half gram of dope, we were off to Humboldt State.  

My parents as usual got into an argument whilst getting lost along the way.  Once we eventually found the place we found the roads for the most part to be closed off for construction.  So that added to the frustration when we had to take the long way to the admissions office, where we were to meet for our tour.  We had arrived at 10:45, and went to the front desk of the office where a woman handed me a folder and told me to wait outside with the rest of the group.

The rest of the group turned out to be just one other family, it was just an eighteen year old girl and her parents.  The girl was porcelain skinned, with beautiful brown eyes and hair, tight jeans and a gem nose piercing.  She had a perfect body.  I never learned what her name was, I didn’t try to hit on her because she didn’t seem very interested, she was hot though.

We waited out side for the tour guide while I flipped through the folder.  It held all the information about how Humboldt was the best school, and how it’s perfect for me, and all that usual bullshit a college throws at you when you see it for the first time.   Our tour guide eventually arrived, he was in a Hollister shirt, Humboldt State shorts, douchey DC sunglasses, and flip flops.  The modern beach boy/preppy hipster/douchbag look.  With the styled hair and highlights.  I wanted to punch him in his dick.  Hell, I could if I wanted to, I knew that, but I didn’t want to hurt anyone else.


After the other family berated the bastard with questions we finally began the tour.  We start by aimlessly wandering the campus as one does at these things.  First we checked out the science building, and its incredible conservatory.  Then the English department, and other lecture halls.  He went on about how constructive and supportive of a school it was, about how good it was for students and how it’s helped him.  He was preparing to become a teacher but he talked about how he constructed his schedule to avoid math or science.  Which according to my mom, a teacher for over twenty years, are essentials to become a good teacher, but I was more interested in the fact you can take conceptual classes where you take a science or physics with math completely taken out.  It’s perfect for me, I’m shit at math, and any way to avoid it is good for me.  I became enamored with how open and laid back the school was.  The phys ed department did make me worried that I would still have my run-ins with the “bro” jock mentality that I hate, but if it means going to the college where they grow the best dope, it’s worth it.  From time to time I would either listen to what the tour guide was saying or be checking out the other girl’s ass.  The more I saw and heard about the school the more I wanted to go.  The campus was beautiful, practically in a forest itself.  Plus from almost any class room and all over the campus, you had the most beautiful view, you had a choice of the lush red wood forests or the beautiful expansive beach, or both in the same picture. 


Once the tour finally ended I was relieved to be rid of the tour guide.  We talked more about Humboldt States sports than I wanted to hear, and he raved wonders about their phys ed department, all a big waste of time in my opinion.  

My parents and I caught lunch in the college’s town of Arcata.  A small town that seems as busy as any big town.  It had all the requirements of your standard old western town with architecture remnants of the 20s and 50s, but it had a totally different feel. I saw plenty of coffee shops, restaurants, and head shops in the town, even a large movie theatre.  It was an amazing town.  We caught lunch at a local pizza joint where I flirted a bit with the girl behind the counter, and my dad noticed, and immediately gave me shit about it.  Nothing mean, just good natured ribbing, you know dads going around to waitresses saying “my handsome boy” but it embarrassed me as intended.

As we ate we chatted about NPR, and things of that nature.  You know Liberal elitist conversations, where we talk about how much better we are than republicans because we actually care about other people.  This isn’t 100% not true.  Republicans do tend to be self centered assholes, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t met nice Republicans, I remember one girl at my school, who was a goddamn reactionary but was none the less nicer to me.  Or a blond, who was per batum the complete political opposite of me, but went so far as to call me her friend.


Once we had eaten, we decided to pay Jill another visit.  It would be a short one, seeing that she still had work, but we visited her and my father gave her a jar of pickled watermelon rinds.  My dad had made about twenty jars before our trip and was handing them out.  Jill loved them.  I hated them.  It was just vinegary, salty watermelon rind, which I consider uneatable.   It’s like chewing hardwood synthesized by Styrofoam.  But majority rules in this family and with it being 3-1 the pickled watermelon rinds have won a spot in the list of foods okay to eat.  

We hugged Jill and allowed her to return to work.  And we spent the rest of the day wandering Humboldt.  We returned to Arcata for a bit.  Then toured a creamery not far from Jill’s work.

We eventually returned to our hotel room.  Once in, my mother grabbed the first shower ahead of me.  So while waiting I went into my room and flipped through the TV channels, eventually settling on the local news, figuring I’d be in for a good laugh when I shit talk the stupidity of the nature of the “news”, but I was caught completely off guard by the story.

“TEEN COUPLE ASSUALTED” was the headline under her obviously made up stage name, “Joy Wong.” 

“Strange events at a local Walgreens, where not just two days ago, a teenage couple was assaulted by an unknown assailant.  The Couple,” it switched to a picture of the two, smiling at some party, the kind of photo the news puts on to show the tragedy befallen on such beautiful people, “was Judy Pins and Jeffery Shoemaker, two seniors and top athletes at John Muir High School.”  I rolled my eyes at the mention of them being athletes, but I was glued to the story like it held my fate, like a man on death row waiting for the governor to call.

 “The couple had just met for their date and was on there way to a restaurant down the street where from around the corner of this Walgreens a man leaped out and assaulted the couple with a metal pipe.” 

It cut to the boy in his hospital bed, his left eye was bruised and swollen shut, and he had five stitches in the left corner of his lips and a huge red spot on his right check.  He had an arm in a sling, but no damage to his legs.

“I had just met my girlfriend, we walked past a homeless guy” he left out the fact he spat at him, “we walked down the street from one corner of the Walgreens to the other, and when we got to the other side, all off a sudden I get whacked with a metal pipe by some random dude, he just wails on me and I go down.  I saw him get my girl with it, but he just gave her one swing and knocked her out, then kept working on me.  He just came out of nowhere and got me so hard before I could get a clear view of him, I mean I described him as best I could, but it was Judy who got the good look at him.”

Joy’s voice came on.  “Judy Pins was released from the hospital that night with no real injuries at all except a mild concussion and small bump on the head.”

Judy came on, thank god, I was so happy to know she was alright, the guy could rot in the most painful and disgusting ring of hell for all I care, but the fact the girl was okay was all that mattered to me. “He just came out of no where,” she said with a beautiful voice “and he just wailed on Jeff, then knocked me out with one blow, then apparently returned to beating Jeff.”

“Do you know why he assaulted you?”  Joy asked off screen.

“Not really,” said Judy, “If I had to guess I’d say it was because my boyfriend was an ass to a homeless man.”

“What did he do?” Joy asked.

“He spat at some poor sweet old homeless man who just begged for change, it was so mean.  I was so pissed at him, I told him “What goes around comes around ass hole” and not to long after I said that, the bastard got beaten up with a pipe.”

You have no idea how happy this was making me.  Not only did she see her boyfriend for what he and his kind truly were, but she didn’t seem to be upset about the assault, hell she seemed happy I kicked the shit out of that guy.  She even called him a bastard on the “clean” local news.  Oh happy day!  

Then she went on, “I mean I probably should feel bad about dumping him the day after he gets beaten up, but the prick deserved it.”  That made all of my troubles just wash away, even if the pigs were coming after me, the fact she thinks he deserved it would make it worth being arrested.  So I kept watching the story to see if I was going to be arrested, but I don’t know if Ill get the answer or not from the story, as it cut back to the douche.  

“Do you think they’ll catch him?”  Joy asked off-screen once again.

“My guess would be no.  I hope so, but given the fact I doubt my own description of him just tells me he got away.”

It cut to Judy.  “No, Jeff cant remember what he looks like, I looked at him only for a few seconds, I’m sure if I saw him in a line up I could pick him but I don’t know what he really looks like.  All I remember was he was white and had long hair.”

It now cut to Joy standing in front of the Walgreens where the story began.  “Police and sheriffs say they are on the look out for the assailant.  He is said to be a caucasian male, with long brown hair, we do have composite sketch of the attacker by the police department, this supposedly from Judy and Jeff’s memory, is what he looks like.”  

It cut to a police sketch that looked nothing like me, it looked like the love child of Charles Manson and the Unabomber, it had Manson’s long hair, and for some reason the Unabomber’s hoodie and mustache.  It didn’t look a thing like me, the girl didn’t seem to care about the assault, I was in the clear! Unless a camera caught me running from the scene of the crime into the car and they trace the car to my parents I’m safe.  

I was home safe, in the clear, free from worry.  I wasn’t going to Jail!  I still accepted the fact I had anger issues to work on, but I knew my violent outbursts were over.  Once you go through a hell like I just did you make damned sure you don’t go through it again.  I felt a combination of relieved and invincible.  I felt I could face anything, over come anything.  Do anything.  I celebrated with my hash brownie, as many Coronas, Mickeys, and Mikes as my dad would let me have, some of the vicodin and Norco’s I brought, and as usual, as much weed as I could smoke.  I still saved as much of everything as I could, I wanted to have stuff to celebrate with and help me get through my trip home tomorrow, but today was a day of celebration.  I was free to enjoy the rest of my life with my family.  Which got me thinking about my dream, the part where I saw all the woman of my family, I realized how much I missed them, how little I’ve seen of them, I decided I would go see them as soon as I can, a trip to LA was in the works.  A little adventure, an experience for the sake of experience to go along with this one.   

I can’t stress to you the relief and joy I felt at that moment. First I thought I was a murderer, now I was just a source for that boy’s karma.  Don’t misunderstand, I don’t excuse myself from my violent misdeed,  I knew I’d get my karma for reacting violently as karma is simple physics, therefore inevitable.  I was free.  Free to enjoy my life again.

I was enjoying it so much, I passed out before sunset, even before I could get a shower in.  

Published by James J Jackson

I'm a poet from California.

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