(Working title: Mike's Eye)
I found myself sitting in a group therapy function at a community center. This was not the first time I felt the urge to get things off my conscience. To purge the annual guilt that lingers in my bones all year, every year, that seeps back into my blood in early November. The room I was in this time was minimally brighter, and cleaner, than most of the rooms that hold these kinds of gatherings. Usually the rooms are dank from the stench of alcoholic tremor sweat, bodily excretions and expulsions, and chemical mixtures that don't ever mask the smells as much as they add to the naturally nauseating aromas. I was in a small town outside of Memphis, where I had recently completed another new office building networking installation. That was the kind of work I hadn't planned on when my reason for going to these gathering happened. I had been a junior in high school then, with hopes and dreams like most other kids had in my graduating class. I was going to be a computer graphics designer, with a focus on video games, or a federal computer analyst, or anything that had to do with the wonder machines that had just broken away from the simplistic word processors which ruled the eighties. I had gotten the idea for the spell from an old Atari game, and with the assistance of my old friend, Mike, got the ball rolling. Things went wrong back then, very wrong. Now, ten years later, at the age of 27, I found myself in these groups most years. I didn't really belong at these meetings, as my poison wasn't from a bottle, although I have been known to down some beers when I think about that night. There is no group set up for my guilty conscience though, and I rejected mental therapy after two sessions on my father's dime, ten years back.
The meetings always start the same, more or less. First people file in one at a time, over a period that can last ten minutes, or an hour depending on what kind of group it is. The court ordered groups are much more strict about what time you show up. I avoided those, mainly because I don't believe in big g god, and real AA groups require that you attend what they deem the only true god's house. So I typically find the small local gatherings of no affiliation. Where the people don't really plan on quitting the bottle, or the drug of choice. More that they feel guilty about something they've done, and want the chance to speak their peace among fellow addicts. Hell, most of the time as the meetings end, I've seen half the attendees walk to the nearest bar or alley, in an attempt to wash away the memory they'd just relived out loud for the first, or fiftieth time. When the meetings start, and the doors are locked, I try not to go first or last, but somewhere in the middle. This time was no different. I stood at the front of the group after five of the thirteen at this meeting had slurred their way through their ongoing addiction problem, before saying “Hi, my name is Adric, and I have a problem.” After the most alert of the bunch muttered “Hi, Adric”, I sat down again. My full name is Adric Albrecht Filmort, and on this night, I wasn't planning on sharing my story. Instead I listened to the sad stories of driving a family, or wife/husband away, losing five jobs a year because they can't show up sober to work, or the grim favorite of murder by way of drunken use of a vehicular device. My story doesn't have anything to do with alcohol, but it did kill my dreams.
When the sob stories were done, and the head of the meeting thanked everybody for their honesty, pleading halfheartedly to find a place to worship, I walked back to my motel. I had no intention of hitting the replay button on that memory tonight. It had been an early meeting, and with so few in attendance, it had gotten out earlier than normal too. I grabbed the keys to my rental car, as I didn't want to risk getting a ticket in the work van, and headed out to find some dinner. Memphis has your typical chain name options, but in my travels I've found that the smaller, non national grub hubs are the way to go. Each town is different in that way. The bigger the nearest metropolis, the better the options. The smaller the town, the more likely options are one of three fast food chains, the obligatory sit down slightly less fast food dining by any hotel you see, and one or two truck stop diner or greasy spoon. But being so near one of the two major cities in Tennessee, I had no trouble finding a place named Deb's. I didn't know what Deb specialized in, or if there was even anybody named Deb working there. All I did know was that it didn't have a giant flashing sign, and the mostly full parking spaces were occupied by local license plates only.
What I found when I walked in and took a seat at the bar, was that Deb did in fact work there, and she was also my waitress. I ordered a local brew, and it came with a menu. After ordering a platter of food, Deb put the order in and came back to chitchat with me. It turned out that she had bought the place years back, after working as a bartender for fifteen years, and had no children to suck up all her tips. Now she preferred working a counter that held more food than drink, and making sure the staff was happy. When my food arrived, she went off to talk with some locals who had come in, and I enjoyed some true southern bbq. After one more beer, I settled up the tab, left Deb a decent sized extra, and headed back to my hotel.
After taking a long shower, I fired up the laptop, and turned on the television. I had just finished logging in the job completion, and was watching the nightly news when a knock came at the door. Getting off the bed, and putting on a shirt, I opened it. Nobody was standing on the other side, nor was there anything on the ground, or taped to the outside of the door. I figured somebody had knocked at the wrong room, so I closed and locked the door, and climbed back into bed. I'd done a pretty good job of not thinking about that night years ago while awake, but my subconscious had other plans. I fell asleep quickly, and then the video player in my mind chose a popular repeat, and the directors cut too boot.