Driving Strangers to Jail — Avery Gregurich

I drove a stranger to jail once because he begged me to, his sentence causing this sentence, compounded with my ignorance of his sense of time, how it has passed, where it has been kept, where to begin is with the facts: 25 years old, arm tattoos only, the right one darkened with various demons all dripping and swallowing blood, a Medusa below his elbow, and a single angel on his left arm, “DARK AND LIGHT” he says, sitting in a city park where he is hiding out, high on methamphetamine, sleepless for unknowable days but able still to fear what is to come and what he will leave behind (namely a four year old son who, two days later, will run around my car as I come to take his father to jail and will scream “LOOK AT OUR BIG PUMPKIN!” and I will look at the uncarved, starting-to-sag orange pumpkin standing on the front porch: his father was gone elsewhere, surely awake), but still we wait in the wetlands where an amusement park once stood and talk about God knows what besides him shooting heroin once, our mutual sour loves, being kids before now, but the cobwebs of his past have kept him June-bugged to this life still, even after two years already spent inside and a substance abuse program medal hanging somewhere in his parents’ home, (his mother, who those same two days later tells me that I am an angel, saying it just like that: “YOU’RE AN ANGEL”), but right now this angel is drinking and hearing about manic depression and suicide attempts and how meth led to a fantasy land where her son’s anxiety and anger disappeared, and I ask the great square question how long he’d been able to stay awake (the answer: 12 whole days, “I TOOK TWEAKER NAPS, 11 HOURS DURING THAT TIME,” all spent playing Skyrim, putting his headphones in and walking the city over; the rest of the time he says he was just beating off), and then he says that “JESUS LAID WITH THE SINNERS, BUT I DON’T THINK JESUS WOULD HAVE USED METH,” which seems like sound logic, his childhood dream to be a lawyer, and a high school mock trial team education structuring his speech even now, high on what he calls “JUNK METH” and asking for reading recommendations for jail besides “THE GOOD BOOK” and East of Eden, his first Steinbeck, which he read his last stint in, which is now in his sister’s backpack in the halls of his old high school, the edges of the pages pushed together, all reading “COUNTY JAIL,” so we walk out of the park with me staggering out suggestions, him saying, “IF I DON’T CALL YOU IN TWO DAYS TO PICK ME UP, THEN I WON’T CALL YOU AT ALL,” but he calls the next night at 3 a.m. just wanting to “HANG OUT,” and there is a black metal sound behind him which makes it hard to hear, but I say that I can’t make it to wherever he is and he says, “I UNDERSTAND,” and I don’t hear from him until noon the next day, a text message that says to pick him up at a CVS where he’s outside finishing someone else’s cigarette, and we’re moving now towards his parents’ house for the look at the big pumpkin before he says goodbye, taking off then for jail, mostly silence with phrases of paranoia trickling out, routing our path to the highway: he tells me to watch my speed as a cop car passes and watches it move away far beyond what the rearview can see, so I ask him if there’s anything else he wants to do before we go in, and he says, “THERE’S NOTHING ELSE FOR ME OUT HERE,” looking with two cue ball eyes out of my car past this city, this state, this piece of America he’s never tried to leave before and won’t now for some time, and as we pull up to the county jail, he actually laughs and says, “JESUS, I’VE GOT TO WRITE ALL THIS DOWN. I’VE MADE UP SO MUCH STUFF IN MY HEAD. NONE OF IT IS REAL, OR MAYBE IT IS,” and the car door slams, and he disappears through the front door of the county jail, and I drive off alone, wondering whether he ever wrote any of it down, and, if he did, if it looks anything like this.