Jack had discovered several things about himself in the time since he’d woken up on the ice. One of those things was that he wasn’t the patient type. There were things he could wait for, but others...it was just faster to take things into his own hands. That was how, after one week and two days in the hospital, he managed to slip out in the night.
It wasn’t all because he was impatient. It had a lot to do with the fact that he had more questions than answers. No one seemed inclined to answer them and he felt like he was on lock down, even though he’d been a perfect angel his entire stay. Sure, he talked back, asked questions, mocked the food, didn’t eat half the food, mocked the doctor to the man’s face, and he was pretty sure Nurse Smith wanted him to jump off the roof, but really, in the grand scheme of things, perfect angel.
In retrospect, it was ridiculously easy to leave the secure psych unit. He’d caught onto the night nurses’ schedule, the night guard’s schedule, and finally gotten the code for the elevator from one of the visitors who had come up. Again, he’d flirted for it, but in the end he’d got it. The hardest part had been getting his hospital issued sensor band off. His wrist was literally chafed raw by the time he managed to get the thing off. He’d had to chew at it for a while and then he’d managed to pry off the wiring inside with a spring he’d dug out of the common room couch when one of his fellow crazies got a bit too overzealous eating glue during activity time and distracted the staff for half an hour. He’d used the wires to pick his door lock later (and really, what kind of a hospital put keyhole locks on the doors of people who were potentially crazy, but strapped them with sensor bands that were nearly impossible to get off? It made absolutely no sense in his mind) so he supposed that it had all been worth it. It wasn’t something he wanted to do again anytime soon, though. His lips still felt raw from gnawing like he had, and when he ran his tongue along the inside of them, they tasted bloody. Teeth were a marvel of anatomy that shouldn’t have to be used like that, Jack decided. If he’d had a set of sharp scissors, he would have saved himself a lot of time and energy. Unfortunately, being on the psych floor made that impossible, and here he was.
Even getting clothing to wear out of the hospital had only been a matter of sneaking into the doctor’s locker room on the first floor. Of course, he’d ended up in one of Jones’ spare dinky button down shirts, but it was better than walking out of there in his hospital issued pyjamas. He didn’t think he’d get far in just those. The pants were another doctor’s, and the leather jacket he’d adopted had a pack of cigarettes in it when he’d pulled it off the hook. Doctors should know better about smoking, but he supposed that there were some habits that you couldn’t ditch, even when you did know better. He’d left the cancer sticks, but lifted fifty bucks from the guy’s wallet in exchange. It wasn’t something he was proud of, but if he didn’t get a meal with actual grease in it, he was sure he was going to die from bland nutrition. He’d taken his wallet, but he was smart enough to know that cash was the way to go. Plastic was easy to track.
The biggest score had been when he’d found a pair of running shoes that fit. They were nearly new and comfortable. He hoped that the doctor who wore them wouldn’t mind, but he didn’t feel too guilty about the five finger discount he’d just committed on everything he was wearing. Doctors made a shit load of money and he figured that they could all go buy more clothing, even if it was inconvenient. Fully clothed, he’d felt a little more human than he had in his white pyjamas. It made the whole outing worth it.
Adjusting his borrowed jacket, Jack walked outside the hospital. He shoved his hands in his pockets and slouched a bit, wandering towards anywhere that wasn’t that nut house. He didn’t expect that anyone would bother to check on him until breakfast, and by that time, he’d be long gone. He was too keyed up to sleep, so it would be easy enough to keep moving for a few hours. He knew that they wouldn’t throw up a national manhunt to find a lost amnesia patient, but he was sure he’d end up on some police bulletin issued ‘for his own safety’ in the general area. But again, he knew it was easy enough to fall under the radar. Actually, it was scary when he considered how easy it would be. He’d just have to obtain some more cash and blend in, only using those credit cards when he desperately needed. It was too bad that they knew his name. He could have put a couple weeks of hotel rooms on those cards with John Gibson’s name on them. He’d just have to be a bit more creative than he would have been otherwise.
And the fact that he was thinking this way should have bothered him more than it did, but if it got him out of the hospital and on the trail of who he once was, he wasn’t arguing with it. It was about time that something worked out for him, after all.
Now that he was actually outside, he was faced with a new problem – where to go from here. It had all seemed so simple when he was plotting and planning in his dull room, but now he had no idea where to start finding something to trigger his memory. He wasn’t even all that sure of which city he was in, after all. It was a minor detail that he definitely needed to remedy before he got too ahead of himself.
But first, grease.
Finding a small hole in the wall joint was easy enough. All he had to do was follow the big trucks. Truckers knew all the best places to eat, or so he reasoned to himself. He’d watched enough TV recently to latch onto that stereotype. There wasn’t much else he could do. Walking in, he’d heard the door chime above his head and country music playing. The smell of hot food hit him hard, making his stomach growl in appreciation. Nothing he ate at the hospital was ever hot. They were probably afraid of giving patients hot food for fear of them either using it to hurt themselves or each other. Even things like pork chops and oatmeal had been cold and chewy. If he never saw a cold piece of pork or a gelatinous bowl of oatmeal again, it would be too soon. The same went for plastic cutlery and washrooms without doors.
Walking over to one of the red vinyl booths, he slid in and sat down, eagerly picking up the menu. There were only a couple pages, but everything he found on there was something that looked like it was probably going to be swimming grease. Perfect.
“Welcome to the Red Car Diner. What can I do for you, Shug?”
Jack glanced up at the waitress who was leaning a hip against his table. She was pretty – all fluffy blonde curls and red lipstick. What was most appealing about her was that she had an order pad in her hands.
“Yeah. What’s good?”
“Well, it’s all good, Shug. I personally go for the house burger when I eat here,” she offered helpfully. “It’s a burger with all the works and a heap of French fries. It comes with a cola and a side of coleslaw. If you don’t like coleslaw, we’ll substitute potato salad or macaroni salad, but the coleslaw is by far the best.”
“I’ll get that then. With the coleslaw.”
Jack couldn’t remember if he liked coleslaw or not, but he was hungry. Either he’d eat it or he would push it to the side and eat everything else available to him. It’d be an adventure, he was sure.
“Sure thing. Can I start you off with water or do you want to jump straight to the cola?”
“Coffee would be great, actually.”
Yeah, it was late at night, and yeah, it was probably not good for his sleep cycle, but he had no intention of sleeping for some time and what better way to keep the batteries going than to get your caffeine up?
The waitress smiled a bit and walked back towards the counter where most of the diners were sitting and eating. They were mostly truckers, as he’d assumed, which probably made the request of coffee a bit less out of the norm. The diner was fairly popular, if the amount of people was anything to by. Sitting there, he didn’t have much else to do but people watch. He’d done a lot of that in the hospital, too. He was one of the saner ones on the floor, so watching the less than sane ones had been morbidly fascinating. It made him grateful that he wasn’t that far gone. One of the guys, Boyd, had been Schizophrenic. Boyd had about four invisible friends and each one got a different level of conversation. Calvin got whispers, Anne had regular levels, Joe was hissed at, and George got full on screams. Jack had never been more fascinated than he was watching it all go down. He definitely never wanted to meet up with George in a dark alleyway, though.
He was shaken from his thoughts when the waitress brought a cup and a pot of coffee over. She started pouring it and he took a moment to read her name plate. Janine.
“So, Janine. I’ve been on the road for a while. Where am I, exactly?”
“Boston,” she replied, the Boston twang clear in her voice now that he knew to listen for it. “You’ve reached the great state of Massachusetts, doll.”
Boston. Well, at least he wasn’t too far from New York. That would make getting where he wanted to be easier than waking up in San Francisco or Los Angeles.
“Where are you headed?” she asked.
“New York,” he offered, taking a sip of the Columbian heaven in his cup.
“It’s a great city. Are you going for business or pleasure?” she asked.
Jack assumed that she wanted to get herself a nice tip or something from how she was chatting him up.
“A little bit of both. I have some business and I used to be from around there, so I’m hoping for a little nostalgia.”
And that was about as close as he could put it. He didn’t know who he’d been or what he’d done, but that was his only starting place and he really hoped that familiar places would trigger his memories. It was getting old stumbling around in his memories.
“Well, hopefully it all goes well for ya.” Oh yeah, she really wanted a good tip.
“I hope so.”
She left him alone after that, only bringing over his meal when it finally was ready. His mouth was watering just from seeing it. The fries were crispy, the bun was soft and fluffy, and his beef was well done. He’d had to specify that. How people could eat pink hamburger was beyond him. After listening to Isaac talk about how many people ended up in the ER every year from undercooked meat...No, he wasn’t going to even think about that, not when he had a beautiful meal laid out in front of him like this. He was excited to eat for the first time in...well, as long as he could remember, so weeks at least. He was going to savor every bite and when he was done, he was going to order himself a piece of apple pie with a heaping glob of ice cream on it. And a milk shake. Well, maybe he’d keep the milk shake for another day. He had the feeling he was going to be too full to move after he’d eaten everything on his plate and the pie.
He was nearly through with his dinner when a group of giggling women came into the diner. They were all dressed up, like they were going to go clubbing later. He couldn’t explain why, but his eyes kept straying back to them again and again. Yeah, he was a red blooded American boy and he was told he was a good looking guy, so he supposed that was something. Passing attractions were absolutely normal. The three were probably in their twenties and while it made him feel old, what with being twice their age, he didn’t mind the view at all. After a few minutes, the song on the radio changed to something more upbeat and one of them got up, kicking off her heels to dance beside the booth. Her nylons caused her to skid a bit as she moved, making all three of the girls laugh louder.
Jack wasn’t really seeing that, though. He was seeing a woman with long red hair dancing around a kitchen, socked feet sliding along the linoleum. She was in a long shirt, her legs bare, and her hair all a mess. The morning light made her hair look like she was lit on fire. He remembered bacon crackling away on the stove, Elvis playing on the ancient radio. She was laughing and singing along. And her smile. Her smile was all for him. It was a silly moment, one he was sure he laughed at, even if he couldn’t remember hearing anything but her giggles.
Jack shook his head, blinking back to the present. He wasn’t one hundred percent sure, but he was fairly certain he’d just managed to remember something. The woman. Whoever she was, she was important. He had the feeling he’d loved her once. She might have been his sister or an old girlfriend, but he had a gut feeling that she was more. He glanced down at what was left of his dinner, wishing he’d ordered something with bacon. Bacon was...he didn’t even know, but he wanted it, wanting to hold onto the memory. Maybe this was just the beginning of his memories coming back to him. Maybe he’d order some on his pie, just in case that helped things along, of course. Also, it sounded kinda good in a pregnant woman craving context...yeah, maybe he’d pass on the pie and just get a plate of bacon.
After all, there was nothing wrong with eating more greasy food in hopes of getting his memory back.