Chapter 5 To Liberate and Learn
Eventually Jack figured out he was heading North. It took what seemed like an endless stream of days and nights for Jack to reach Sacramento, and by the time he did he had run out of his cash. So he had to resort back to shoplifting in order to eat. He missed the hot showers and food he got from his friends, but he managed to sneak into campsites and public bathrooms and get himself cleaned up enough not to offend passers by.
In Sacramento, it was hot, dusty and uncomfortable. The city was so hectic and everyone in a car seemed to have personal vendettas against pedestrians and none of the cyclists have a helmet on, because it would mess with their hair that intentionally looks messy. Jack could tell these people riding on bikes were those upper middle class white kids who liked to pretend they were the victims.
Jack over heard one of these fake-ass punks while walking past a coffee shop. The little guy said, “This is the worst time in history to be a middle class white male.” Jack immediately punched him in the face. He collapsed onto the ground in a screaming pile of pain, bellowing about his broken nose, while Jack turned his back and walked away. The man’s group of friends were still stunned and speechless by what happened as Jack walked off. Jack simply said, in his emotionless manner, “Suck it up.”
Jack walked off, and he wondered how he could get away with doing these things to people in public and not have to deal with a single cop. This was the second time Jack had committed assault since he got out, and each time he had gotten away with it, Jack wondered why.
Soon he could not stop thinking about the police. He wondered if the police were on his trail, and then he wondered if they visited his friends yet. They knew his real name, they could give plenty of evidence. Jack did worry that the cops would throw his friends in jail for aiding a fugitive. He wondered if they had tried to find his parents yet. Good luck trying to talk to the dead, Jack thought. He choose not to worry about it, he especially did not want to think about his parents. Instead he choose to drink. It was a long blur of a binge that day. When nightfall came he slumped in an empty alley somewhere on L street and passed out for the night.
He awoke the next day around noon to the clutter and oblivion of the city. The beat of the government employees’ feet speed walking to the capital. The click and clank of coffee cups being chugged by hipsters sitting on the patio of the nearby coffee shops.
Jack was specifically awoken by a quarter being dropped on his face. Apparently when people saw him asleep they thought he was a bum and dropped some change next to him. Jack felt insulted. He was homeless, but he wasn’t a bum. But then he realized this was these people’s idea of charity, he knew they meant well, but he also knew it meant pity. This infuriated Jack. Jack needed no ones pity, but Jack soon resolved that once again he didn’t care.
He walked out of the alley and up a few feet to an artsy fake hipster cafe. He walked to the front and asked the hipster girl behind the counter what the change could get him.
“A small coffee, and a biscotti. We are giving out free biscotti today,” replied the girl behind the counter. She had black hair and a tattoo on her forearm, she reminded him of Alice. Jack missed her for some reason, he didn’t know why. Jack rarely misses anyone.
Jack sat in the restaurant and nursed his coffee and a tiny piece of stale biscotti as long as he could. He took full advantage of the free water pitcher. He sat and watched the other people in scorn. They all looked at him as if he was just another bum sitting in a free space to get warm. Apparently, thought Jack, being poor and cold is still frowned upon by people. Jack wished they were poor and cold, if only for a day, Jack wished they could only know what this feels like.
Soon he left the cafe. He resolved to find a shower somewhere. He wasn’t going to a shelter though. He knew those places are full of people trying to get in. It wasn’t worth it. He knew it would mean a roof over his head and a square meal but he knew demand was high in that department, and it just wasn’t worth the effort. “Sad when the help to the needy is indeed no help at all.” Jack remembered that from a Sunday school his grandma took him to when he was little. Jack didn’t think about church any more. He didn’t believe in god any more, not because he was an atheist or anything like that, he just didn’t care. Like almost everything, Jack just didn’t care anymore.
When Jack left the coffee shop at around two, he wandered the town in hopes of finding an open faucet, or something he could use to at least wash his face. His listless wandering led him to the town’s underside. He didn’t know how but he went from midtown to some place called Del Paso Heights. He knew he was in a ghetto when he saw a sign that said. “This is a gun and drug free zone.” It wasn’t even next to a school or a church, it was just a sign on the street paid for by the city. You can also tell a ghetto because they have chain link fences surrounding the entire front yard instead of white picket fences merely separating two lawns. The lawns here either didn’t exist or had brown bald spots like a green and brown Dalmatian. The roads in ghettos are horrible too. Pot holes and cracks that stretch from one end of the block to another. Jack had discovered that Sacramento had it’s own version of South Central.
As the night drew out, more of the underbelly of the city became exposed. It wasn’t long until Jack had lost count of the amount of prostitutes that he saw and had made him propositions.
He walked past the beacon calls of, “You wanna go out honey?”
“You looking for a good time baby?”
“Need a date for the night honey?”
“Come on sweet cock, everyone needs some tail on a Friday.”
That one was the funniest to Jack, he had been asked by hookers plenty of times and he always ignored them. But this was the first time one made him laugh out loud, because what hooker would resort to calling a guy, “sweet cock?” She must either be an amateur or desperate, or both.
Apparently someone thought the same thing as Jack, only they didn’t think it was funny. In fact they were out right pissed. Behind him Jack could hear some loud guy shouting and the girl screaming and crying.
“WHAT THE FUCK KINDA LORE IS THAT? “SWEET COCK!”
“YOU GIVE ME ONE MOTHER FUCKING REASON WHY I SHOULDN’T FUCKING KILL YOU, YOU FUCKING UGLY ASS BITCH!?”
Jack just heard the guy go on and on, beating her while the girl was just screaming, “NO DADDY, NO PLEASE I’M SORRY DADDY!” Jack turned around, the girl’s screams wouldn’t even phase the guy as he brought his hand up for each swooping hit.
Jack started having flashbacks to when he was a five year old clutching his teddy bear in his closet. Trying to plug his ears to the sound of his mom screaming as he heard the smack of his fathers palm on her face.
Jack didn’t hesitate.
Jack ran up to the guy and clotheslined him as he ran by, the guy hit the back of his head on a fire hydrant and cut himself, deep. While blood gushed from his skull, the girl took advantage of the moment and hid behind two trash cans.
Jack showed the man no mercy. He knew no one in a ghetto was going to call the police at one in the morning if a cunt like this guy was getting what was coming to him. He curb-stomped his front teeth to shattered glass, broke half his ribs, and crushed his back foot so bad the guy was destined to be a club-foot the rest of his life. When he was sure the guy had passed out from the pain, or maybe was even dead, he searched his pockets. He found little balloons full of heroin, he looked at the girl who was now shaking and crying and putting her hand over her eyes. The girl was pale and thin, Jack could tell she was a junky.
He searched the guy some more and found a huge wad of bills, ranging from small to big. He counted it out and there was over 5,000 in one wad. He searched some more and found another wad containing another 5,000. He took all of the guys gold and silver chains and bracelets, and a real rolex. He took his clothes too, just to punish the guy further, and he left him in the middle of Del Paso Heights naked, bloody, and unconscious. As he walked away he could still hear the girl crying behind the trash cans. Jack still wasn’t used to this thing he called emotion, but now he felt the life altering emotion called pity. He took pity on the girl and walked back.
He took out the two wads of cash. He kneeled down to be eye to eye to the girl. She hesitated to look at him and she still had her arms raised in fear. She was shaking horribly, and Jack could tell it had been a while since her last hit.
“What’s your name?” He asked as tenderly as he could. That wasn’t Jack’s strong suit.
“Mary,” she said, even her voice was shaking.
“How many girls besides you did this guy have working for him?” he asked.
“It’s me and five others,” she replied slowly trusting him more, but still crouching as far away from him as she could.
Jack counted out six thousand of the ten he had taken from the guy, and he slapped it into the girls palm. “There, a thousand for each of you. I’m keeping the rest.” He pointed his finger at her like a father discipling a renegade teenage daughter who was finally scared straight. “Tell the girls that he got busted, and they need to get out of the business while they have the chance. Give them the money, and then take yours and then leave the girls and wish them luck. Go to a shelter, or a mission, or fuck I don’t know where just find a place where you can get some help. Oh, and, DO NOT SPEND THAT MONEY ON SMACK. CLEAR?”
“Crystal,” replied Mary. She obviously had experience with men telling her off, she replied without even a second of hesitation. She knew to respond and respond fast, he had been so kind to her so far, but Mary knew that he could turn at any minute, she wanted to be ready.
She had no need to fear, all Jack said next was, “Good. Run along.” Before Jack could even stand up all the way the girl was already up to the end of the block.
“Damn,” Jack thought to himself. “The girl can run pretty damn well in heals.”
Jack wandered until he was in the area that was sort of in between the ghetto and the suburbs, near some mall on the edge of the heights and some street called Arden. The area wasn’t the ghetto, but it definitely wasn’t the rich part of the suburbs. An upper lower middle class place. He got a cheap room at a Motel Six, and took a long hot shower. The first one since he had left his friends. Jack missed them but decided it was best not to think about it. He decided to watch some TV as he dried. The only thing on was a bunch of old fuzzy movies and soft-core porn. Jack left it on some old Joe Pesci movie that he didn’t know the name to. He laid on the bed and passed out immediately. He didn’t care if it was in a Motel Six right next to a busy loud street that was only blocks away from hookers. He was comfortable.
The next day he woke up around noon. He walked to the front desk and gave him the cash for another night. Jack couldn’t believe the schmuck behind the desk took the name he gave, Jack didn’t even believe the name sounded real, but apparently all these people care about is that you pay. Jack thought he could bring a twelve year old Chinese girl in chains who was screaming rape and this pimple faced fuck behind the bulletproof glass wouldn’t care as long as he either paid for the night in advance or had a credit card.
Still, it was funny that the guy actually believed his name was “Lewis Carroll.”
Jack had finished the book as he was drifting along the highways. He loved the book, he thought it was fun and psychedelic, yet it made Jack think in a way he never had before. Jack couldn’t tell exactly how, but he knew the book changed his thought process for the better. He wanted to read more, and he decided to buy some more books with his cash. So he walked to the closest book store and he looked at the classics section. He hadn’t heard of a lot of the books and authors in this section. Except for the few he had seen as movies that he did not know started as books, like Treasure Island, Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and Sherlock Holmes. Even Dracula and Frankenstein. He saw Shakespeare plays he had never even heard of like The Tempest and King John. He settled on Moby Dick. It was long so he knew it would kill plenty of time, plus Jack always regretted not reading it when he was supposed to in high school, but he decided that this would make up for it. He also decided to get one of the Shakespeare’s he was supposed to read but never did. He settled on Hamlet, he didn’t know much about Shakespeare, but he knew that Shakespeare’s supposedly greatest play was Hamlet.
The books didn’t even cost him twenty dollars, he still had thousands.
He thought about splurging on a grand meal, but decided against it. He would make this money last and settled for a few cheap meals at fast food joints to make the money last as long as possible.
After a meal of Taco Bell and Motel Six tap water, Jack began to read Hamlet. He didn’t stop until he finished, it took him all night and well into the next morning, but he was enthralled. The story was so epic, so intricate and interesting that Jack didn’t want to put it down. Plus Jack identified with Hamlet. He couldn’t believe a book written so long ago could be so insightful. But Jack knew how Hamlet felt when everyone in his world was against him, that was Jack’s world growing up. His parents were against him, his teachers, his classmates, even his so called “friends” turned against him the minute the cops showed up. Jack knew how Hamlet felt when he contemplated suicide. Jack had lost count of the times he wanted to kill himself. After his first arrest however, Jack learned to stop caring.
Jack felt a new excitement he never felt before. He felt bad for making fun of all those people who told him reading was fun and opened new worlds to people. Now he could tell they weren’t bullshitting, reading was amazing, he didn’t believe it at the time because he didn’t even know that books like this and Alice in Wonderland existed.
He resolved to make up for all the reading he didn’t do in school, or in prison. He wished he took advantage of the book cart more in jail . No matter what, he decided to start reading and learning as much as he possibly could.
That was it, Jack realized. That’s what these books were doing to him, they were teaching him, for the first time in his life he was actually learning something useful. It wasn’t how to avoid getting gang raped or how to carve a fake gun. He was really learning, it felt amazing. Jack actually began dancing around jumping for joy and with ecstasy over his realization. He was learning, he was actually learning. He was the happiest he had been since he was a child.
Happy, Jack Lewis, who used to have the nickname “Stone Cold Jack,” was happy. Jack wasn’t even this happy when he got out of jail the first time. Jack was now ecstatic. He almost couldn’t contain himself, his feet stomped so loud the people on the floor beneath him almost called the front desk.
Jack couldn’t wait to start reading Moby Dick, but Hamlet had taken out all his energy and his burst of joy had drained what was left of his strength. Soon he crashed on the bed, but couldn’t sleep because he hadn’t eaten since 8 pm last night, and it was already 11:30 the next morning. He walked to Burger King and got a cheap but filling breakfast. He saw a homeless man begging in front. The man asked him for some change so he could get a bite. Jack slipped the man a twenty and left before the man could thank him. He yelled out, but Jack only acknowledged the man with a wave of his hand.
The man was so grateful. Jack didn’t know it, but he was the first person in a week to give the man any money.
Jack went back to his motel room, after paying for a third,and he decided, final night in Sacramento. He took the chains and jewelry he had taken from the pimp and laid them all on the table. They consisted of one big gold chain, one thin gold chain, two slim silver chains, two silver bracelets, two gold bracelets, and the rolex. Jack would cash them in at the nearest pawn shop tomorrow on his way out of town. Jack also resolved to wash his one set of clothes before he left. He hadn’t since he left his friends. He changed into the clothes he stole from the pimp and took his clothes to the nearest laundromat. He felt like a jackass waiting for his clothes in baggy south-pole pants and a King’s jersey. Especially since we was now a thin white boy with a beard and growing hair. He hadn’t realized how much weight he lost until he put on the clothes ,but besides the muscle he had basically made permanent since prison, Jack was starting to become wiry. He was amazed that his fast food diet wasn’t putting any weight on him though.
When his clothes were done. He went back to his hotel room and slept for his final night.
He woke the next morning, and walked out with his bags. He wandered until he found a pawn shop, he got almost a thousand for the chains and the rolex. Jack was surprised. He had to remember this pawn shop, other places didn’t give you that kind of a deal.
Jack walked out of Sacramento. He walked out the city with a sense of scorn for its people, its elitist structure and nature, and its hot dusty weather. But he would always remember the city as the place he found himself, the self he actually wanted to be and not the self his world had made him. He wanted to learn. That was it. He just wanted to learn and he was going to do it. For some reason, he felt he had this city to thank for it.