All the stories sound the same, she thought, when you line them up. The slick businessman here only until Wednesday morning and the ratty-looking high school kid with the pubic hair beard—eerily similar. It was disorienting, at first.
Her first thought had been: I don’t belong here. She still didn’t really, because she’d never spoken. There was nothing for her to say, you know? She felt pathetic, sitting here with the crumbling cookies and too-strong coffee, because she’d never run the full length of the course—DUI, arrest, breakup, custody battles, homelessness, wet brain—and everyone else had done something, everyone else actually had a breaking point or a bottom or whatever you want to call it that made sense. Something that had really forced them into this pathetic cafeteria at 8 p.m. She felt fake, overly dramatic, like she didn’t live up to the first letter of the initalism the way everyone else so clearly did. They all laughed and talked and cried but she couldn’t without feeling like a bad actor. It was almost like she wished she could watch all of them on TV, or from a distance so she could react more honestly and without an audience and all. No obligatory joke-cracking about her constant silence. It would be expected, as an audience member just sitting alone in her living room.
Also while we’re on the subject of all this: the religion crap. She had despised it in the beginning. She prayed like they said she should, but it was fucking impossible in some ways when God had stopped being that person with nails through his hands and had transformed into something she never really wasted much time thinking about. It was like they wanted her to be part of organized religion again, and she couldn’t go back to that with the priests and their garments that were drag-queen-bright and befitting for Mexican farmers in a period piece. And all the standing and sitting was so pointless, it was like just when she’d started to think about Jesus Christ or fucking Thomas or whoever they interrupted her with the unspoken motion. (She did like, though, how they always talked about God as you understand Him. It gave her the illusion of choice, and she took it. She decided that God was the kitchen doorknob, because whenever she could see It she knew she was sober. That made things a bit more bearable, she supposed).
As a writer, she kind of relished in this whole thing. The people. The underbelly of society—and it was laced with the some of the last people you’d expect—just talking, some more theatrically than others, about what had happened to them, looking back on it and trying to make sense of all the shit, like how you can want so so so so so badly to stop doing something and for some inexplicable reason you just can’t and she had originally been surprised at how much insight these people could have, how much they could make her think more deeply about her own situation, even though some of them, she suspected, couldn’t even write their own names.
Sometimes people would cry that they’d ever gotten here. She remembered this aging artist doing that, saying how he was sixty years old and still at these fucking meetings and why couldn’t there be an end anywhere? Why couldn’t he ease off his medication, the way you could with any other illness? She never cried at the meetings, but sometimes she would cry about that, at home, with the TV on because she didn’t like the dogs to hear. She would cry because she had wanted to be more mature and stop smoking so much weed and so then this was so much simpler, it was legal, even, and she could just drink and drink and drink unlike any other girl that she’d ever met and she would have a great time even if she would wake up in odd places the next morning with her panties missing, and somehow, throughout all of it, she never once thought of her dad and how he used to look at her like he was dead already or in a coma; how she would yell “Dad, Dad, Dad!” and he would just stare at her and wouldn’t answer and she also never thought about her sister’s third birthday when he smashed his forehead on the garage floor and she never thought of the pretty dress she had been wearing that she never wore again, even after her mom washed the snot out of the sleeve.
She cried because it took her under its wing like a great shadowy bird, and she’d already seen what could happen but she still let it happen to herself, anyway.