Where the hell are my pants?
That is a question asked under very specific circumstances in life. You may pose it to a dry cleaner that has misplaced your clothes or ask it rhetorically as you search through piles of unfolded laundry on your couch while running late for work. When the circumstances for that question involve awaking from a drunken blackout in a holding cell, however, it becomes a question you’re not sure you want the answer to. Hangovers and jail cells were well-trodden territory for me, so my lack of pants trumped the standard “how did I get here” question that would be asked by those more pedestrian to this situation.
I sat upright on the bench I had slept on, attempting to ignore the symphony of cracks, pops, and shooting pains sounding off from my joints as I rose. A sliver of consciousness became clear enough to improvise an agnostic prayer for my mind to get right soon: We all know I’m going to do this again, so I won’t insult anyone with that empty promise. I just need a little help if you can manage it.
“Oh, you’re alive.”
A voice from my right side surprised me and cut off my selfish prayer the way a fart in church would cut off an actual prayer.
“I guess,” I replied. I looked at the floor and waited for the cell to stop spinning before trying to focus on identifying my roommate.
“I honestly wondered. You hadn’t moved since they brought you in here. I was worried that you’d start to smell soon.”
I turned to face the voice of concern and immediately wondered if I was still drunk, still dreaming, or in some kind of odd purgatory. He stood in the corner of the cell, leaning against the bars that cut us off from the outside world. He wore a green suit that was immaculately tailored to his small frame, yet worn casually; his jacket open, his tie loosened, his feet bare. It was the look of a gentleman whose night on the town had provided him with a story to tell… except that he wasn’t a man. He was a monkey.
“Darwin,” he stated, walking toward me with a furry paw extended. I shook it.
“I’m Phil,” I put on my best hangover manners, “nice to meet you.”
He reached into his jacket and pulled out a soft pack of unfiltered cigarettes, shaking it until a couple loose smokes peeked out of the opening in the top. He took one in his mouth and offered one to me, which I accepted and he lit with a wooden match.
“What are you in for?” I asked.
“Apparently,” he replied, “I’m not evolved enough to drink in certain establishments in this town. How about yourself?”
He nodded and smiled as he climbed up and sat on the bench next to me. We smoked in silence for several minutes until I took a drag on my cigarette, turned to him and opened my mouth to speak, but didn’t know where to start.
“Yes,” he started for me, “I can talk.”
“And you’re a monkey.”
“Agreed,” he said. “I am, indeed, a monkey.”
“Right,” I said. “So are you an evolved monkey, or a devolved human?” I asked.
“You and I are in the same place right now: jail. I’m wearing a suit, and you have no idea where your pants are, yet your assumption is that you’re more advanced than I.”
“So based on clothes, you assume you’re more highly evolved than me?” I countered.
At that moment, the cigarette I held burned down to where my fingers held it and singed my skin. I yelled a half dozen curse words and threw it across the cell, watching as it exploded against the wall in a shower of orange sparks.
“No, not based on clothes,” Darwin’s reply was as dry as the martinis that had landed him in our cell.
He took a final drag off his cigarette and flicked it without looking, sending it sailing across the cell after mine. It left an arc of curling smoke trailing off the cherry burning at the end of the butt and landed perfectly in the stainless steel toilet that was bolted to the wall.
He asked me if I’d gotten my phone call yet and I told him that they usually called my wife to come get me whenever they brought me in to dry out. He raised an eyebrow at the thought of me being in the tank so often that my wife was on speed dial.
“Hey, I don’t judge you for publicly masturbating,” I said.
“Nor should you. I’m a monkey.”
“Fair enough,” I said.
A cop entered the holding area carrying a cup of coffee that he set on the food tray opening of the gate. From across the cell, the name “PHIL” could clearly be read on the mug.
“Oh good, you’re awake,” the cop said to me. “Patsy’s on her way. We told her to bring pants again.”
“Thanks, Frank,” I replied, getting up to fetch my coffee. Darwin sidled up next to me and eyed the cop through the bars. “Can you bring a cup in for my friend here too?”
“Fuck that guy,” Frank replied. “He bit me when we fingerprinted him.”
I looked at Darwin, who looked up from lighting another cigarette with a gleam of mischief in his eye. Frank the Cop turned to walk away and told me he’d come get me as soon as Patsy got there. I watched him leave the holding area and turned back to my roommate, who grinned from ear to ear. I asked him why so smug and from behind his back, his curly tail revealed itself. Dangling from the end of it was a ring of comically oversized jailor’s keys, lifted directly off of Frank’s belt.
His tail shot between the bars and jammed the key into the lock as though he did it a hundred times a day. With a flick of his tail the lock sprung open with a metallic pop and the gate swung wide on squeaking hinges.
“Ready to get the hell out of here?” Darwin asked me, motioning to the open door as if to say “after you”.
“My wife is on her way,” I said.
“Perfect. She can give us a ride.”
“But I don’t need to escape,” I argued, “I’m not charged with anything.”
“If you want to be known as the guy who stayed in an open jail cell, effectively holding himself on the merits of the Honor System, you go right ahead,” he called out as he exited the cell.
Well when you put it like that, I’d be stupid not to leave.
We wandered out of the cellblock and through a couple odd hallways and cubicle farms, the kind of bureaucratic labyrinth you only find in government buildings and the erotic dreams of corporate middle management. We found an unmarked exit, went through it and found ourselves in an alley, free as a couple of birds. No alarms. No searchlights. No barking German Shepherds. It would go down in history as the most anti-climactic jailbreak of all time.
As soon as we were on the sidewalk, Patsy’s roadster careened around a corner and came into view on her way to pick me up. Darwin and I stopped under the block’s lone street light and watched the car approach. As Patsy drove by, our eyes met and she watched as
Darwin and I both waved at her. Patsy’s brake lights lit up and she pulled a tire-squealing U-turn as she swung her car around and pulled up to the curb in front of us. Darwin and I leapt into the car as Patsy hit the gas and took off from the curb without ever really having stopped, a reflex to the insistent howling of “go, go, go!” by Darwin and me.
“Did you bring pants?” I asked.
“You’re welcome,” Patsy answered dryly, reminding me of the existence of manners.
I thanked her for being an accessory to a jailbreak (even though it wasn’t super-meaningful since I had not been formally charged with anything) and introduced her to Darwin, who offered his paw to her.
“Salutations,” he said.
“Charmed,” Patsy replied.
We sped through the near-abandoned streets of pre-dawn Cape Coral. As I explained the events that had just happened, leaving out a large portion of the night that I just plain didn’t remember, she drove even faster, eager to get as far away from the drama as possible. Patsy drove to a nature preserve, as directed by Darwin, and we got there just as the sun was peeking over the horizon. As soon as we came to a stop, Darwin jumped over the windshield and scurried over the hood.
“Thanks for the ride,” he said as he leapt to the ground, “tell them I kidnapped you.”
He ran for the tree line, reaching into his jacket for his cigarettes as he ran. There was a visible spark in the subtle morning light, a puff of smoke, and then Darwin was gone.
“Nice guy, huh?” I said.
“I’m just glad you’re making friends,” she responded. “Want to go to breakfast?”
“I’d love to,” I said, “but I left my wallet in my pants.”