a night drive with 2pac

I didn’t see it, but it was told to me.

Between raving and all the good times sandwiched between each rave, I have many photos of Jack smiling. Close friends, the lot of us, spending every weekend at my four-lady party pad, playing videogames, watching movies, and pre-funking before we headed out to dance until the dawn.

He was always sweet, always grounded, always stable. So when the whispers went around, everyone was incredulous. Had he really…?

For years, though, I hadn’t heard from him much; he had disappeared behind computer screens into a pot-hazed binge of World of Warcraft. Sure, they’d always hinted that pot could do numbers on people, mutating their psyches with paranoid delusions and what not — but such mutations never seemed to last, or be anything more than a catalyst for quitting. With Jack, though, the combination of substance abuse, introversion, and what I can only suppose — bear with me — was a lot of hip-hop music, led to his unpredictable untangling.

It’s the stuff of silly urban legends, maybe. He had probably been clicking away in his dingy basement, surrounded by pop cans, potato chip bags, and half-smoked joints, when he heard the voice of 2pac — yes, that 2pac — urging him to drive to California. He obeyed. Leaving his home near Seattle, he headed south — and along the way, pulled into a rest stop and lost it… or perhaps a more apt description would be that he proceeded to lose it further…

Before I continue, though, let it be known that Washington State has the best rest stops. Unlike the drought-ridden no-man’s wastelands of California, most rest stops along Washington’s I-5 corridor are staffed by volunteers dispensing cookies, coffee, and hot cocoa. So it is that one can almost picture the elderly retirees, chatting amongst themselves and minding their own business, when in comes a 32-gallon Rubbermaid trash can, barreling towards them, just to ricochet off the glass window with comical bouncy plasticity. Yes, Jack had thrown a trash can at them, then fluttered off into the middle of the freeway, like some sort of fucked up mothman drawn to the passing flow of lights. He then sat down in lotus position, like some sort of fucked up Buddha on some sort of fucked up mount, and henceforth waited for death. A failure. Too few cars on the road at that hour. Timing dictated that only one observant driver needed to swerve from Daniel’s maniac behavior before the police came. He was placed into a mental institution then released in no time.

But the saga didn’t end there. It was the era of George Bush, and everyone was mad about politics. The mad mind of Jack gave in to the common madness towards George W. — but not to be outshined, he made sure to take it further, by publicly declaring via Facebook his desire to murder the president. Certainly not a new thought in the mid-2000s, and what he posted online was merely fragmentary . Somehow, though someone was listening. On good authority, word has it that the Secret Service showed up at his door.

Most of this tale remained under wraps to those who knew him; Jack had already been lurking in subterranean internet worlds for so long that his physical presence had long been forgotten. After the Secret Service scare, a friend drove him to the Canadian border, and Jack fled to South Korea for more than a year. Whether such a move was overly paranoid or straight-up illegal remains unclear. Here and there, mentions of Jack would surface, but the details were always scant. He eventually returned when it seemed that the heat from his death threat had worn off.

When I think of the days that Jack had spent every weekend at my house, I wonder where his mind went between then and the call to action from 2pac. How do we ever know who or what might snap? More than that, though, I wonder about the conscience and consciousness which led Jack to leave his house. Did his mind cycle through justifications about his impulse? Did he sit still for a moment, double-guessing himself? Or was he given such a crystal clear directive that no room was left for skepticism?

… and what of 2pac’s voice? Was it an exact replica? A direct line to the rapper’s divine ghost…? Or was it the Elvis impersonator equivalent of 1 of Amerikaz Most Wanted? Or maybe, just maybe — it boomed forth like the commanding voice of god, screeching by like slammed brakes in the night, incessantly tapping on his shoulders until he could stop himself from crossing the threshold no more.