25. Repent and Repeat

 

After the date disaster with Myra, I eventually resolved to go back into meetings. Or at least make an attempt. Not faking my way through it, like before when it was court-ordered. There’s something about having to complete a task when it’s not your choice that’s very off-putting. I mean, that’s what work seems like, but they pay you.

With my intentions properly aligned, I attend a meeting in a different location. They’re all over the city, and it’s been awhile since I was banned from that dingy church basement. Strolling in several minutes late, my new choice is validated. This room is bright and open, not only is it at ground level, but there are even windows. The metal folding chairs have cushions built into them. This is the place to be. I’m staring up at the ceiling in what will be a fruitless search for burnt out bulbs when I notice someone is trying to speak to me. This shift of my attention brings their voice in from muted to full volume.

 “I said I see some new faces,” what must be the leader of this group says. “But really I just meant you son.” Some of the other members chuckle, but it’s friendly and inviting.

 “Hello,” I say, looking around at them. I’m surprised to feel myself smiling.

 “Being your first time with us, we’ll be sure to get around to you today, if you’re up for it. Give you an opportunity to speak with the group.”

With that the meeting proceeds. But I fade back out. Normally the prospect of speaking to a group of strangers would compel me to flee. Flee in search of the nearest liquor bottle. In this case, my desire to stay, and even become entrenched in this positive environment, keeps my ass in that cushioned seat. However, dread soon follows. Dread over how short this positivity will last. And that teams up with anxiety. Always the anxiety. Sometimes it seems as natural as breathing. Starting to feel defeated again, I decide that if I remain positive until the end of the meeting, that would be a victory.

One confession concludes and another soon begins. I’m admiring the coffee machine across the room. Even that is a step up. Looks like it makes cappuccinos. Those are good with Irish cream. But what isn’t? Alcoholism I suppose. The speaker pauses. For too long. Everyone is looking at me again. No, they’re looking past me. I realize this hearing the door close. I finally turn around, and it’s Johnny the Drunk. His gangly walk jaunts into our circle, and takes a seat. He probably showed up late just to make this entrance.

 “Don’t let me interrupt,” Johnny says, a big dumb smile in response to all the attention. “Please continue.”

The current speaker does finally continue. I’m now watching Johnny, he’s smiling too much. I’m starting to find it irritating. Either that or it’s that I suspect he might get a chance to speak. Given the chance, Johnny will ramble on for the rest of the meeting about just how positively great it’s all going. He’ll add some bullshit about how long he’s been sober. How he can be a source of support, inquiring when and how to become a sponsor. The door behind me opens again. This time I hear it. Followed by the clicking of a spoked bicycle wheel, slowly moving past the gears.

 “You’re supposed to leave those outside I think,” Johnny says.

 “I had a bad experience with that recently,” The Cyclist says, making eye contact right as I turn around. “Is it okay if I just leave it in the corner today?”

 “Of course, that’s no big deal,” the group leader says. “Join the circle friend.”

The Cyclist and the group leader team up to find a chair and slide it into the circle. Right next to mine. I stare him down, not avoiding the confrontation. My blood boils in response to the certainty of his ill intentions. The Cyclist smiles sadistically in return, “Hello”. I do not respond. I’m plotting my next move, or defense should it be required. That feeling of positivity has quickly become distant.

 “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” I ask. “This is supposed to be a safe space, anonymous.”

 “Was it a safe space for Cameron?” The Cyclist asks. “I know what’s going on here.”

 “You think so huh?”

 “Yep, that’s why I followed you in. Just because the court ordered you to attend these doesn’t mean you’ll take it seriously. You’re probably just here for the free coffee and desserts. Oh, and look at that coffee machine. Does that thing make cappuccinos you think?”

 “I finished the court ordered sessions. This is for me.”

 “Could you gentlemen pipe down and wait your turn please?” the group leader asks.

 “You think this will be your repentance? You’re wrong because that’s me.”

 “To hell with your brother.”

Turning back to the circle, I can feel his eyes burning a hole in the side of my face. It’s not long before he strikes the same spot with his fist. That quick I find myself on the floor. Gasps followed by intelligible shouts are heard out from my ear that is muffled by the linoleum floor. The other ear is ringing. I smell citrus floor cleaner. When my bearings return, I scamper to my feet. Unsure if The Cyclist has been restrained. Seeing that he’s not, I’m even more bent on retaliation. Several members of today’s group move in between us, blocking the path.

 “This guy isn’t even an alcoholic,” I say.

 “That is for god to judge,” the group leader says, standing in between others who hold us apart.

I walk out around the group. Shrugging off the hands and arms that attempt to restrain me. As if I’m leaving. Then I grab the bike in the corner, and ghost ride it with some velocity at the group. This causes enough of them to scatter. In order for me to take a run at The Cyclist. I return his earlier punch. Then raise him a few more. Really good, clean shots aided by bewilderment from the chaos. He falls to the floor.

Soon the majority of the group is dragging me out the door. I can hear the group leader apologizing to him. He obviously didn’t see how it started. I’m laughing maniacally at the absurdity of it all. Best intentions right? Once outside I’m told never to return. I scoff, straightening my clothes and dusting myself off. I jaunt across the busy street into a convenience store that sells beer and wine.

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