~!WAIT!~ Don't read this if you haven't read part 1, Jackson and Annabel: A Contrast and part 2, Jackson and Annabel: A Crash first. This is the conclusion of the three part installment of the hipster-romance between Jackson and Annabel.
Since we last left Jackson, he was still a self-absorbed millennial sponging off of his family and random girls for meals and attention. His dream girl, Annabel, was last seen peddling away, as he sat on the side of the road, clothes drenched with water and stained with grass.
Will Jackson and Annabel live happily every after? Will there be any redemptive factor in this story of sarcasm and vanity? What are you waiting for!? I’ll stop yelling if you start reading.
Change of Plans
With his fixed-speed black beauty stolen, the pilgrimage to Boulder-Dash Texas was aborted. Pulling out his newish iPhone 6 (not the plus though, for practical reasons), Jackson looked at his reflection. Admiring himself, he reasoned it was simply too good of a hair day to turn-in already. Jackson decided on how to arrive at his next destination and held down the home button. The phone made a quick beep-beep noise after a slight pause.
“Coffee shops,” stated Jackson. Siri took a deep breath and responded.
“I found one coffee shop. It looks close to you.”
Jackson looked at the map shown on the LED backlit 4.7” (diagonal) screen. The shop was a mere half mile away.
Jackson proceeded to stand on the side of the road like an idiot with his thumb in the air; two hours in and no one bothered to stop. Angry with the inhumane treatment he was receiving in an all white upper middle class suburb, he started to walk. As he walked, he screamed at the cars driving by thus avenging himself and regaining his humanity. Jackson was proficient in this form of “justice.”
“I’m a bloody human being! I have rights! I have a dream! ” complained Jackson till he became winded from the advanced multi-tasking of walking and shouting.
Whizzing by, a BMW honked at Jackson’s lanky figure for jaywalking across the street toward the parking lot of the coffee shop.
“Same to you too ya’ bloody buggered!” retorted Jackson. Probably because of binge watching Snatch and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels the night before. He still does not know how they are related or even which preceded the other.
His thin fingers wrapped around the metal handle of the door to the store and pulled.
“You bat rastards . . . ” whispered Jackson under his breath while offering a sacrificial bird from his hand to the “closed” sign on the door. The nearest building looked not as closed so he walked toward it.
Walking and talking are things Jackson prides himself on, although not well versed in the reality of them. So he had shown interest and an aura of book loving even though he had never been in a bookstore much less a library. This began in high school when he did not make the soccer team but was too narcissistic to be around the “nerds” who ran most of the non-athletic clubs and so he did not join anything extra curricular at all. But it was thirst, not books, that was on his mind.
He licked at the dryness of his mouth and imagined an old rusty water-fountain inside. Walking inside with what he thought looked like a nonchalant stride, arms swinging less and less casually as his steps switched between that of a pimp and someone who recently shartted, he claimed the water-fountain. After quenching his thirst, he thought he would have a gander at the objective of the library itself: books. All the while, still looking like an idiot.
Jackson strolled down every book shelf as if he was in a grocery store taking the most pedantic approach to finding the eggs. Starting with the children’s section and ending at the world atlas’ in the back. He tried to log onto a computer to look up “How to use a library,” but his attempt returned void. As he stood up and began towards the book shelves, he heard the soft voice of a young female librarian.
“Hello, is there anything I can help you find?” She was petite and wore a head covering that resembled that of a nun. She had come over to check on what she and the other librarians thought was a disturbed homeless man who thought he was in an imaginary grocery store. As a wanna-be nun, she bestowed charity towards him in small talk.
Jackson was still walking “nonchalant” when he realized two things: the first was that he had just walked all the way to the back of the library, to the history section (right next to the world atlas’) and the second was that he had not responded to the librarian and so she had not stopped walking with him. Not knowing what to say he improvised.
“Huh? Uh, oh I was just uh . . . looking for . . . ” He pulled out the book nearest to him, “Down and Out, on the Road: The Homeless in American History.” She smiled like a social-worker who had a rewarding day for the first time in years.
“Oh?” more curious at her and the other librarian’s assumptions looking to be surprisingly correct, “why this book?” She asked with pity and a hint of a self-proclaimed psychologist mannerism in her voice.
“Uh, oh you know, just trying to figure out life. What better way than to study those who have been there and done that, ya’ know? Those who have struggled with this and that and what not.” The librarians eye’s softened.
“Well that’s very proactive of you. More people should make the best of their situations like you are. You just let me know if you need anything.” She touched his arm and smiled, then went back to the front desk where the other librarians praised her for her boldness and quizzed her on what they talked about and what he was like.
Jackson was caught off guard by the kindness of the wanna-be nun librarian. He misunderstood her conversational charity for direct praise.
“I had no idea people were so impressed by reading. I could get use to this,” thought Jackson.
Needing more affirmation, he began to go to the library and check-out a book each day. At the end of the week he would tell himself he was going to read the books, return them, and repeat the sequence. Books he rented were that of philosophy, history, and physics because he found that the librarians reacted with the most praise when he chose these subjects over others.
Each week he would sit down with a coffee and his stack of highly respectable texts, open whichever one was on top of the stack, and begin to read. And each week something would distract him from getting past the first few pages. Jackson was distracted primarily by his iPhone 6 (anything from buzzfeed “articles”/videos to updating his Instagram with a vintage filtered picture of his stack of books next to his coffee captioned, “Knowledge is power”). Other things that hindered his trial for being authentic were: taking long showers, the weather, staying up late, sleeping in, waking up late and eating a late breakfast leaving him with no time for reading, and that Quentin Tarantino movie marathon. This upset him because he realized he had failed at accomplishing anything of value and he still didn’t know which guy Tarantino played in Reservoir Dogs.
He began returning the books through the slot on the side of the library instead of walking inside because he was running out of made-up answers for what he thought of each book. “It was interesting,” “life was so different back then,” and “more people should know this stuff” were no longer suitable answers. On one occasion the wanna-be nun cornered him as he was dropping off his un-read books.
“Excuse me Sir!” She was so sweet and innocent, which just made Jackson feel worse about himself. He looked at her attempting to smile like he had things to do but he looked more paranoid than preoccupied.
“Oh hey,” he said with a squeamish chuckle.
“Look I know you like to keep to yourself, in your books and all, but I know of this place where you might be able to share your knowledge of books or talk and stuff with people who have ‘been there and done that’ you know?” Jackson put his hands in his pockets.
Jackson Turns a New Leaf
The wanna-be nun told Jackson of this homeless shelter called the Saint Peter and Paul Shelter. She told him how there were “like-minded” people there who want to better themselves and others through acts of kindness. She told him that they could always use a hand if you didn’t want to just be served by them. Jackson, feeling guilty about deceiving the nice librarians, told her he would check it out. She gave him the address and the name of the man in charge: Josh.
“Men should always be the head of leadership. Josh is a very gifted servant of the Lord and would love to get to know you,” she said. Jackson did not hear this part as he was preoccupied thinking about how good he was going to feel after “helping all of those homeless people.” As a last parting gift, she gave him a picture book about Giraffes entitled Giraffes? Giraffes! She chose this book because another homeless person used to come in nearly a month ago and read this book religiously. She assumed, therefore, that this was a book of comfort for the homeless although she had never opened the book herself.
“O.K. Thanks!” grabbing the picture book from her, he waved goodbye and texted Uber for a ride to the shelter.
The Shelter and Josh
Uber dropped off Jackson at the shelter. The driver was waiting for a tip but Jackson did not believe in tipping so there was an exchange of words in front of the shelter. Had Saint Peter and Paul still been alive, they most certainly would not have approved. The conflict was escalating when Josh walked over. He discovered the issue (Jackson’s selfishness) and offered the Uber driver more than what the tip ought to have been. The driver took it and sped off.
“Man, can you believe that guy?” snapped Jackson. Josh could not understand the jerk before him. He asked God if he was being tested. Josh took the silence as confirmation and so he would be patient with this strange jerk, er, man created in the image of God.
“How can I help you son?” asked Josh. Jackson replied in honest deception.
“I’m here to volunteer.” Josh looked at him like an elderly person deciding if the salesman is selling fresh kettle-corn or stale kettle-corn.
“Can you say with all integrity that you ‘respect people’,” inquired Josh. Jackson thought this was a strange question, but did not want to start off on a bad foot with his new friend.
“Um, ‘I respect people’,” replied Jackson.
With that Josh took Jackson under his wing. He showed him how they interact with the homeless. How they prepare the meals and share conversation. How they inspire, lift up, encourage, and when the opportunity is there led by the Holy Spirit, how they share the gospel of Jesus Christ. It took some time for Jackson to understand that Josh was neither a Mormon, a member of the Westboro Baptist Church, nor a Jehovah’s Witness. Once Josh explained that those “organizations” are both separate from Christianity and not the only people who claim the name of Jesus as their Lord and Savior things became a little more clear. He was still a bit confused but it was expected. He started to feel guilty about his first experience with Josh, the whole Uber-driver-tip thing. When he apologized Josh just told him,
“Things that are done, it is needless to speak about . . . things that are past, it is needless to blame,” Which sounded like “apology accepted” to Jackson. This also struck Jackson as a strange response and he felt like he was experiencing déjà vu. His train-of-thought was interrupted by Josh motioning for him to come help him with something.
Josh would tell Jackson about all the different people that have come through the shelter. He told Jackson how some were able to “get back on their feet” and others drifted away, often because of a relapse into drug use. The story Jackson was most interested in was one of a girl named “Ann” who would show up ever-so-often with gifts she had received. He asked how she was getting these gifts and Josh explained that because she was a bit insane in the membrane it’s difficult to know which parts of her story to believe. He did say that Ann claimed that it was “an angel” who periodically visited her with “hip gifts.”
“I’m not sure how ‘hip’ played into the gifts. From what she said she was given coffee, a conversation about blogging and the environment, her picture taken and . . . oh what else was there . . . a bicycle. Perhaps I’m not with the trends.” Jackson could not help but think of how odd it was for someone else to have almost exact interactions that he himself had had with Annabel. But this was a new life for Jackson and he did not want to relapse to his previous self-loathing.
“What happened to her, I mean Ann, and her ‘angel’,” asked Jackson. Josh shrugged.
“That’s the thing, she’s been missing for about a month now. Last we saw her she was on the bike ‘gifted to her by her guardian angel’, barefoot, carrying only her backpack. We offered her some new clothes, as we do for most people, but she declined.” Jackson could only think about how the last time he saw Annabel she was riding off with his bicycle.
“Well can’t you call someone to find her to make sure she is alive or something?”
“I wish it were that easy. We can’t legally keep her here so even if we were able to contact her we wouldn’t be able to make her stay. Although sometimes I wish it was like that.” Josh sighed. As the sun began to descend, Josh told Jackson he could go home for the day, and reminded him to tip the Uber driver, adding,
“The superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions.”
“That makes a lot of sense,” replied Jackson as he stepped into the car.
As the Uber driver drove, Jackson preoccupied himself with tipping the driver and filling out the “rating” for his experience with Uber on their mobile app. He gave the man the best rating possible and wrote an additional note of how professional the driver was. The two never actually talked during the drive, usually the driver would make an effort to engage the customer in conversation, but this driver had been warned of Jackson and decided not to waste his time. Regardless, Jackson was feeling pretty darn good about himself.
He thought of the homeless people he had helped and was pleased that he saw them as real humans rather than an idea or number. He thought of the patience he was learning from Josh. He thought about all the lives Josh had helped and thought that Josh was the sort of man that he wanted to be. He thought of how his parents would finally be proud of him for the new life he was living and it gave him hope. With all of this, Jackson was still unable to get Annabel out of his mind.
He thought about the first time they had met, her slim shining hair and captivating gaze glimmering. He thought about her sincere smile that would catch him off guard. He thought of how strange it was that this person Ann, whom Josh had told him about, seemed very similar to Annabel. He thought of how even if they were the same person, which they couldn’t possibly be, that maybe, just maybe they could be together. Thinking of the past like this made him depressed. He felt corner of the Giraffes? Giraffes! book poke his back from inside his backpack and decided to return it so that someone else could enjoy it’s fantastical pictures.
“Holla, hey yo amigo,” called out Jackson to the driver tapping on his seat.
“It’s Anthony. What can I do for you?” replied Anthony (who knew Uber drivers had names?).
“Take me to the library-o instead-o, por favor,” demanded Jackson. Anthony rolled his eyes.
” Hey man! I’m Italian not Latino,” snarled Anthony.
“Gracias,” snapped back Jackson.
Jackson was barely out of the vehicle when Anthony sped off leaving the door to slam shut from whipping the wheel quickly to the right and then slamming the breaks before speeding off. Jackson bewildered at Anthony’s action decided to be the “bigger man” and let it go.
“Some people just don’t get kindness,” he thought.
As he approached the front door he looked up, stopped walking, and admired the contrast in the rooftop of the library and the sunset behind it.
“Man that’s cool,” he said to himself.
As he stood there, he heard a rustling that sounded like it was coming from the back of the building. Curious, he walked in its direction; the Giraffes? Giraffes! book in his right hand.
“Annabel?” asked Jackson in disbelief.
In the dumpster, wearing her tattered clothes and stained back-pack, stood the crusty-kid herself: Annabel. She stopped what she was doing and jerked back for a moment taking refuge inside the dumpster and then slowly standing back up to where they could see each other. She was searching in the dumpster for the Giraffes? Giraffes! book that was in Jackson’s right hand. She smiled and began to quote Confucius quietly when she realized that her search was over.
After the bicycle incident, Annabel had been riding almost every day to the library to read the book. One day, after leaving the library, she went into a bad area of town. She traversed onto Scooter-Gang turf where she was picked off by some members of the gang. They smashed her bike, by tail-whipping it repeatedly, and then warned her never to return or she, “would be next.” The bike remains rested on the ground against the side of the dumpster. But with her “angel” arriving with the book she needed, everything was going to be alright.
Jackson began to walk up to the dumpster. His lanky body summoning the courage to approach his love. She was standing inside of the dumpster looking at Jackson like he was an angel. It was a picture for the ages. He reached up to climb over the side of the dumpster when Annabel extended a hand. Jackson took this to be a hand offering help while Annabel was just reaching for her “hip” gift, the book. She was heaving him up when he, still holding the book, reached for the edge of the dumpster with his right hand. Annabel let go of Jackson and grabbed the book from his right hand.
Everything turned into slow-motion. He was falling off the edge of the dumpster looking on in confusion at Annabel for letting go of him, after he had held onto the thought of being with her the whole time they were apart.
His side landed first, then his head, bouncing off the asphalt as he hit the ground.
Annabel sat down in the dumpster smiling, hugging and kissing the book in her arms.
She had found her hearts desire and was content.
Jackson could not believe what was happening. He started to become angry and wanted to vanish, but when he rolled off his side and reached for his iPhone 6, he felt a broken screen. He then muttered, “I knew I should have gotten that freaken OtterBox.”
- Shout out K. Chaps for creative/editorial assistance!
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