Some days you put on a sports jacket and your good shoes, and you go up to Cross Creek to see who’s going to be Citizen of the Year. That’s what I’ll be doing Thursday night, a few hours before writing this.
And some days you get in your car and drive your friend up to Wilkesboro so he can turn himself in and finish his jail time. That’s what I did on Wednesday.
It’s enough to make one feel a little schizophrenic. When I was sitting at a table at the country club Thursday night, taking notes and pictures, worrying about my deadline, I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone else at my table knows that when you send a book to someone in jail, it has to be paperback and it has to come directly from Amazon. No Amazon third-party sellers, no mailing books yourself, and most emphatically, no hardcovers.
Apparently, the binding of a hardcover book can be fashioned into quite a serviceable knife. A shiv, I think it’s called. Or is it a shank? I can never remember if one gets “shived with a shank” or “shanked with a shiv.” I should have asked on the car ride to Wilkesboro, but I wanted to keep things upbeat. Which is easier said than done on a road trip with a jail cell at the other end.
Which is why I wanted to get a book for my friend anyway. Several years ago, I loaned him a copy of “Gump and Co.,” the sequel to Forrest Gump. I thought he might enjoy the further adventures of Forrest since “Forrest Gump” is his very favorite movie. He wasn’t sure at first if he wanted to read it. He said he hadn’t read a book since graduating from high school, and on further reflection, said he didn’t think he had ever read an entire book that didn’t have pictures on every page.
But he did read it. And loved it. And has expressed recent interest in reading it again. But I’ve lost my copy. I loaned it out to at least 20 people, several of whom had also not read a book since leaving school. By now the total would be far more than 20, if somewhere along the line, someone hadn’t failed to return the book. Anyway, I’ve lost track of it, and that’s too bad. It’s a one-volume adult literacy program. Somebody really ought to make use of that information.
I had planned to get my buddy his own copy of the book for Christmas, but his wife suggested I wait and send it to him in jail, which of course made more sense. He will have plenty of time on his hands, and might very well welcome a distraction from the inevitable jailhouse detox which will begin the instant the gate slams shut behind him.
He’s told me before that coming off drugs in jail is not an optimal situation. His exact words were “It’s not pretty, but it’s effective.” I imagine that’s a bit of an understatement.
Maybe it will be a little bit easier this time. Unlike the last time when he got hauled off to jail after he had broken from reality and was operating in an alternate universe, a universe that floated on a cloud of opium and was fueled by meth and revenge, he’s clearheaded enough to realize he has to get his debt to society behind him before he can attempt to make a life for himself.
He’s certainly not as far gone as he was last time, or he would not have allowed me to drive him to the courthouse to turn himself in. His former self did not let go of drugs and freedom until he was led away in handcuffs. That’s got to be progress, and dare we hope, maturity?
Some years ago, not long after we became friends, I confessed to him that I had never been to jail or prison, never even been arrested, and he was taken aback. Shocked even.
“Never?” he asked. “Not even once?”
“Never even had my fingerprints taken,” I said.
He told me I shouldn’t tell anybody at work and he would keep my shameful secret. And for him, it was a shameful secret. In his world, for a man to be a man, to protect what is yours and to defend your honor, sometimes you have to go to jail. It’s something of a badge of honor, shows you’re tough and don’t take any crap. Or something like that.
I still don’t understand how drugs fit into this moral code, but it is a code, albeit an undecipherable one to anyone who doesn’t subscribe to it. I certainly don’t understand.
It’s a bit ironic I once had a job where it was best to not let anyone know I had never been to jail, and now I have a job where I probably shouldn’t mention to my co-workers that driving a friend to the slammer is not an unusual occurrence on a day off. But here I am talking about it anyway, although as I write this I’m fairly certain I won’t mention it at the chamber dinner. Those folks can read about it on Friday.
I hope paperback Forrest — direct from Amazon — keeps my friend company while he is a guest of the state. And maybe, just maybe, he will start to heed the advice I have been giving him since our friendship first became close enough to withstand personal advice. ‘Don’t go to work drunk, or high, or otherwise messed up. And don’t get that way while you’re there.’
It seems so basic to me, and thus far he has failed to realize its importance, despite being kicked to the curb time after time after a bad result from a drug test or breathalyzer. He’s a good worker. He enjoys hard, physical work. But the drug test and the Breathalyzer get him every time.
He says he’s finally learned that lesson. In four months, we’ll see if that’s true. Maybe Forrest can talk some sense into him in the meanwhile.