Chapter 2 - Speaker Meeting
MONTY and Vicky walked arm and arm through the crowd of people, across the porch, and through the front double doors. When they got inside, they headed towards the meeting hall, which was up two flights of stairs, on the second floor. However, when they got to the foot of the stairs, Vicky said she first wanted to find her sponsor, Susan, and asked if Monty would wait for her in the front room foyer. Monty nodded and stepped under the staircase, tucking himself into the little pocket between the stairs and the wall.
As he stood there waiting, he watched as people began to wander in from the outside porch area and get in line for fresh cups of coffee. They all seemed so happy, laughing, smiling, and carrying on with one another, as if nothing in the world could ever cause them any harm. It made him sick. He couldn’t understand how they could be so cheery after all the horrible things they’d done. He’d seen these people before. He’d listened to their stories. He knew what kind of shit they’d pulled. These people committed crimes, they went to prison, they stole from their families, they abandoned their kids. But, it was like they had no remorse, like they were proud of it, like going to jail was a merit badge on their sleeve. What did they think? That they had no culpability? That they were free from guilt? Free from blame? That by joining this silly, little club and simply quitting drinking, they were suddenly absolved from all of their sins? That all they had to do was turn their will and their life over to some bullshit higher power and suddenly they were saints about to enter martyrdom? Ha. What a lie. What a cop out. What a bunch of Judeo-Christian horseshit.
Monty would never do that. He’d never be like them, unwilling to take responsibility for all the damage he did. It was his past and he had to live with it. He had to live with it every moment up to his dying day. No matter what he did and no matter where he went, he’d always be the son who punched his mother in the face and called her a cunt—the son who threw away his life and turned his back on his family so he could go live on the streets as a fucking drunk. Why? Why’d he do it? Why’d he put his mom through all of that pain? All he had to do was pick up the phone and let her know that he was okay. Three fucking years…that’s what he wasted…three fucking years of nothing but pain. What was wrong with him? Why did he take so long to get clean? He could’ve been a doctor or a scientist or a professor, he could’ve been more than just a fucking dry drunk waste of a human being. If only he could go back to school and finish his doctorate—if only he could go back now and achieve his dream. But how? How could he go back after everything that’s happened? How could he ever hope to be normal again? He was an alcoholic, plain and simple—a sick, demented person with an incurable disease. For the rest of his life, he would have to walk around on eggshells as if one misstep would knock him right back to his knees. Well, wasn’t that what his sponsor taught him? Wasn’t that the main message he got from AA? That no matter what he did or how long he stayed sober, he would never escape this disease? It was a part of him now—it lived deep inside his tissue, pumping from his heart, pulsing through his veins. He couldn’t erase it, he couldn’t hide from it—it was as much a part of him as was his DNA. All he could do was go to his meetings, call his sponsor, and pray to God for just one more day.
But why? Why did he have to live like that? Why did he have to live like such a fucking slave? Like a servant to some intangible infection—a victim of some abstract disease? Why couldn’t he just be sober and be done with it already? Why did everything in his life now have to revolve around AA? For fuck’s sake, all this talk about faith and higher powers and those endless lectures about spirituality and God. It was too much…too much to handle…too much for someone who didn’t even like God. He was sick of God. He’d had enough of the bastard growing up in the South in a Catholic school and a Catholic family in a Christian country in a Christian town. All those people packed in the church on Sunday mornings, praying and singing to their precious God—a God who punished them if they sinned against him, who came from the clouds and struck them down, and that giant statue of Jesus hanging above the altar, the one with his hands and feet nailed to the cross, and all those people kneeling down in front of him with their eyes closed and their tongues rolled out. He didn’t get it. He didn’t get why people prayed and sang to him…why they killed and gave their lives for his love. Were they that impressionable? Didn’t they have minds of their own?
He considered himself lucky that he got away when he did and went off to public college and was finally able to de-program himself of all that crap. But now, because he was in recovery, it was like he had to hear about it all over again—about how God was his only chance at redemption, how staying sober wasn’t even possible without him. How was God going to keep him sober? How was God going to keep him from drinking again? He couldn’t see him, he couldn’t touch him—as far as he was concerned, God couldn’t do a god damn thing. The only one that could was Vicky. She was the only one who could keep him from drinking again. But nooooo…what did these idiots in here say when he told them about Vicky…about how her love helped him to stay clean? The bastards said that it wasn’t real love…that it was just codependence…that he was just using Vicky as a way to cope without alcohol…that if they continued seeing each other, they’d just end up relapsing. They said that they should wait a year and see what happened, wait until they were both recovered and then, and only then, could they start a relationship. Well, fuck that. Fuck their opinions. Who were they to tell him he couldn’t have a relationship? Who were they to tell him he couldn’t be in love? If it weren’t for Vicky, he wouldn’t even be here. He wouldn’t have made it one week, let alone an entire year.
And tonight was the night that he was going to show them. Tonight was the night he was going to fuck up their little program. He’d prove to everyone, once and for all, that love was possible…even in AA…even in recovery.
He took a few deep breaths and felt the ring box in his pocket then closed his eyes and leaned back his head. Just as he started feeling settled, he felt a tug on his jacket and a sharp, country twang bellow in his ear. “Yo Monty! What’s up man?”
Monty opened his eyes and peeled himself from against the wall. Oh great, speak of the devil—it was Robby, his twelve-step sponsor, probably the biggest AA fanatic in the whole world. He was grinning like a lunatic and chewing on his tobacco, the dip like a golf ball tucked between his lips and gums.
“Oh, hey Robby,” Monty said, trying to sound delighted, while at the same time trying to move out from under that disgusting, minty dip smell.
“Hey Monty, where the hell you been, man? I ain’t heard from you in what, like, a couple weeks now, right?”
“Oh yeah, sorry about that. I was actually in Florida visiting my parents.”
“No shit? How’d that go?”
“That bad, huh?”
“Well, you could’ve called me. What? They don’t got phones in Florida?”
“Well, I was pretty busy. What with all the Christmas presents and dinner parties and stuff like that.”
“That’s no excuse man. You still gotta call your sponsor. Let me know how things are going. Shit, Vicky called Susan like everyday, twice on Christmas. You need to take after her man. She should be a shining example for you.”
“I know, I know. Story of my life, right?”
“Damn skippy.” Robby cleared his throat and spit into his spit cup then wiped the saliva from his chin. “So, how’s that fourth step coming?”
“Yeah, you’ve been working on that thing for like three months now, right?”
“Yeah, I’m still trying to get my head around it.”
“Shit man. There ain’t no trying. You just gotta sit down and do it. Write that shit out, you know?”
“Yeah, I know, I know.”
“I know it can be overwhelming at first, having to write all that shit down; all the terrible things we did and said in our addiction; the people we harmed and pushed away; it’s fucking humiliating. Nobody wants to have to relive all that bullshit and they sure as hell don’t wanna confess it to someone they barely even know. But, trust me, dude, once you do it, you’ll feel a million times better, like a weight has been lifted off your soul. You’ll be able to breathe and put all that bad shit behind you and finally start living your life again. It’s worth it.” Robby smiled as he patted Monty on the shoulder, looking at him with pride as a father would a son. He cleared his throat and spit again into his spit cup, then checked the grandfather clock that was wedged up against the back wall. “Oh shit dude. It’s almost time. You ready?”
“I guess so.”
“Yeah? You nervous?”
“A little bit.”
Robby snickered and took a step forward, slapping Monty open palm on the back. “Yeah I’ll bet you are. Don’t worry dude. You’ll be fine. Just get up there and let them words flow through you—open your mind and open your heart. You’ll be alright.”
“I hope so.”
“It’s a special god damn night, boy. I’m real proud of you. I mean that.”
“Ya’ll doing anything later to celebrate?”
Monty looked down at his pocket, smiling at the bulge the ring box made against his thigh. He did a quick scan of the foyer to make sure Vicky was nowhere in sight. “Actually…” he said, with a slight hesitation, not too sure if he should tell Robby the news.
“What?” Robby said, in almost a whisper, his eyes darting between Monty and the foyer. “What is it? Is it something about Vicky?”
Oh great. Now he had to tell him. He already knew that something was up. “Well, it’s just…”
“…I kinda have something big planned for tonight.”
“Well, spit it out. Shit, you’re keeping me on pins and needles here.”
“Well, I was kinda thinking I might propose to Vicky tonight.”
Robby’s eyes lit up like a pair of Christmas luminaries and the dip in his mouth dribbled out like hot wax. “What? You’re kidding me?”
Monty shook his head. “Nope.”
“You’re not just fucking with me right now?”
“No, I’m serious. I’ve never been more serious in my entire life. Here, I got the ring right here to prove it.” Monty stuffed his hand into his pocket and pulled out the box that contained the ring. He positioned it in his palm then pulled it open, first checking the foyer to make sure Vicky wasn’t around.
Robby looked at the ring then back at Monty like some kind of animated jack-o-lantern on Halloween. His eyes were swollen and his mouth was wide-open, dark spots on his gums from the dip tucked under his lip. “Holy shit,” he said, as he tore off his Denver Broncos ball cap and scratched the thinning patch of hair on his head. “I don’t believe it. When are you gonna do it?”
“Tonight. After my speech.”
“Well, I’ll be damned.”
Monty smiled proudly as he snapped the box closed then stuffed it back into his jeans.
“Well, how do you feel?” Robby asked.
“Well, no shit. I’d be sweating my balls off. I mean, this is big. This is bigger than big, this is huge. I mean marriage. Wow dude. You sure you know what you’re getting yourself into? I mean, you guys have only known each other for what, a couple of months now, right?”
“A year, actually.”
“Still, this is pretty huge. I mean, don’t take this the wrong way—you’re my sponsee and I’m real proud of all the great progress you’ve made so far, but…”
Oh great, here it comes—the part about him not being ready for a relationship.
“…you’re not exactly what I would call a recovered addict. I mean, you’ve still got a lot of your own problems to figure out.”
“So, are you sure you’re ready to take hers on too?”
“Vicky doesn’t need me to take on her problems. She can deal with them just fine on her own.”
“No, I know, I know, but—”
“But, you’re still so early in this program. I mean, I don’t really think you’re in a place where you can be making a decision like this.”
“Well, I’m sorry you feel that way Robby, but I love Vicky—”
“Are you sure?”
“That you love her?”
“Of course, I’m sure.”
“You sure it’s love and not something else?”
“What the hell else would it be?”
“Hey, you tell me. People in this program get into relationships for all sorts of reasons. Some are confused or just sad and lonely, looking for something to make them feel whole again. I can’t tell you how many young guys I’ve seen come into this program and jump into relationships before they’ve had a chance to heal. I’ll tell you this—they usually don’t last too long. They usually end up relapsing and leaving the program together, going out in much worse shape than when they first came in.”
“Yeah well, Vicky and I aren’t like that.”
“I’m not saying you are. I’m just saying that you need to be careful and really think about what you’re doing. Never underestimate the power of this disease. Because it’ll sneak up on you when you least expect it and tear a damn hole in your ass.”
“Yeah, I know, Robby. You’ve told me a million times.”
“Well, I’m telling you again. I mean, this is a big step.”
“Yeah, I know. Look, if it hadn’t been for Vicky, I would’ve never gotten sober and I sure as hell would’ve never come through those doors over there.”
“I know, but that’s exactly what scares me.”
“Well, don’t be scared. This is a good thing. Trust me. I love Vicky and this is what I’m doing and nothing you say or do is going to change my mind now. So, you can either be a part of it or get the hell out of here, because I have no problem finding another sponsor in here.”
“Aw, come on Monty, don’t be like that. You know I’m just looking out for you, right? I care about you, dude.”
“Yeah, I know, but sometimes you just gotta back off a little. I mean, I only got”—Monty glanced at the grandfather clock ticking next to the stairs—“another ten minutes before I have to get up in front of a room full of people and profess my innermost secrets and fears. I really don’t need you of all people telling me about the “incomprehensible demoralization” of this disease. I’ve heard it a million times already, and I really don’t need to hear it right now, okay?”
“Okay, okay. No worries. I’m just trying to help.”
“Well, go help somewhere else, because I really need to focus. I feel like I’m about to have a damn heart attack over here.”
Robby laughed and stepped forward, slapping Monty again on the back. “Don’t worry dude. You don’t gotta be nervous. Everything’s gonna be just fine. I promise.”
“That’s easy for you to say. You like giving speeches. In fact, I think attention should be your new drug of choice.”
Robby chuckled and spit into his spit cup, his eyes moving towards the front door. “Uh-oh,” he said, as he bent slightly forward, covering his mouth as if he had a secret to tell. “Don’t look now, but here comes Vicky.”
Monty looked to where Robby was pointing, over by the porch, near the front doors. Sure enough, there was Vicky, coming towards them, smiling and waving like the cutest girl in the whole world.
“Just act natural,” Monty said as he stiffened his posture and ran his fingers through his still snow-damp hair.
“Hey Robby,” Vicky said walking up to them, stopping just short of the winding staircase.
“Hey Vicky,” Robby said. “How’s it going?
“Pretty good. How are you?”
“Oh, I’m okay. You ready for the big show tonight?”
“Heck yeah.” She wrapped her arm around Monty’s. “It’s about time this slacker gets up on stage.”
“I know it. I’m excited. It’s gonna be a big night.”
“It sure is.”
“Well,” Robby said, turning to Monty, a sly smirk on his tobacco-aged face, “you have fun up there tonight buddy. And try not to get too nervous.”
“Yeah. I’ll try.”
“If you need me, I’ll be right there in the front row, okay?”
“See you up there?”
“Yeah. See you.”
Once Robby left, Vicky turned to Monty and pulled him tightly against her chest. “You ready?” she said looking up at him, a smile in her eyes, a smirk on her lips.
“As ready as I’ll ever be.”
“Alright. Let’s do it.”
Genre – Literary Fiction
Rating – R