a reply to: DictionaryOfExcuses
Jesse held the rails and took two stairs at a time rushing down to the church basement. The wavering voice of a sobbing woman stopped as he appeared
in the doorway, slightly out of breath. All eyes were on him; for a moment, the buzzing of the fluorescent lights was the only sound breaking the
silence. A dozen folding chairs were set up in a circle, only a quarter of which were occupied.
An old man with slicked back hair, wearing a pearly-buttoned, plaid cowboy shirt (complete with a pack of Winstons in the breast pocket) and a big
broad smile of gleaming dentures said, “Hello, Jess! Glad you could make it pardner! Today’s a big day for you!”
“Thanks Rookie. Sorry I’m late, everybody.”
“No, no, don’t be sorry. We’re glad you’re here! Fix yourself some coffee and join us,” said the old man.
The sobbing woman finished speaking while Jesse went to a card table where there was a 12-cup Mr. Coffee alongside a tray with sugar packets,
non-dairy creamer, Styrofoam cups, and stir-sticks. Jesse poured himself a cup of coffee, which he left black, and joined the group.
“Well, as you can see, Jesse, lots of people stayed home today so this is going to be short and sweet. Richard and Jana have spoken,” said Rookie,
pausing to nod at the man and woman, the latter of which was still dabbing Kleenex at her teary, red eyes. “Why don’t you tell us how you been
Jesse sat up straight and tight-lipped a reticent smirk, looking down at broken black-and-white tiles on the floor. “Hi, I’m Jesse. I’m an
The small chorus replied in a monotone unison: “Hi Jesse”.
“My week was pretty slow. Told myself this was gonna be the week I’d finally unpack, but…ya know…never quite found the motivation.” His
voice – low and distant – stopped while he took a sip of coffee and picked a piece of fuzz off of his hoodie.
“What’s the matter, pardner?” probed Rookie, squinting his eyes. “You sound a bit off…”
Jesse continued: “On my way here I ran into an old buddy of mine. I had my first drink at his house the summer before we started high school. His
house was the place I did the stuff I couldn’t get away with at home, ya know? I ain’t talkin anything major…I mean lightin off firecrackers,
stayin up all night eatin candy and playin sega…that sorta stuff.” He paused, picking at a scab on his hand. “Believe it or not, I was Mister
Straightlaces back in those days. But one day, my buddy swiped some beers from his parent’s fridge, and he kept doggin me and doggin me
until...well, you know how it goes…”
“How long has it been since you seen him? What was it like to see him today?” Rookie asked.
“I guess I’m sorta bent outta shape over it, tell ya the truth. I see him – first time in years – and he acts like he’s
angry to see
. Like I
messed up his
life, somehow. It ain’t fair. It ain’t right—"
“Remember, pardner, this ain’t no pity party,” Rookie interrupted.
Jesse sipped his coffee again and drew in a long breath. His feet were nervously tap-tap-tapping on the floor.
Rookie continued: “You can’t hold him responsible for all the twists and turns in your life. How’s he supposed to know, when you were kids no
less, how bad alcohol was gonna be for you?”
“Here’s my point,” Jesse started, “he didn’t even gimme a chance today…it makes me wonder if I deserve a chance from anyone...from Laura,
from Maggie.” His voice grew louder, his brow more rigid as he continued. “It makes me wonder if I already screwed up my life beyond repair…it
makes me wonder why I’m not getting drunk instead of sittin here in this gross #in basement,” he finished, gesturing toward the surroundings.
His final comments were met by sympathetic eyes and murmurs of “Mhm”
from the other two group members. And again, for
a moment, all eyes were on Jesse, and only the buzzing of the fluorescent lights broke the silence.