I knew He would show, I just didn’t know where or when.
I sat in the waiting room of the same clinic that I had taken the positive drug test 4 years before. I flipped through the Sports Illustrated, feeling that semi-annual twinge of regret that I just don’t get as much into the nuts-and-bolts of baseball as my Da and my brother. It would give me lot more to talk about with them, I thought. I hardly noticed Him sitting across from me, flipping a quarter over and over. But I did notice Him. A few moments went by before I started to fidget.
I wanted Him to say something. I wanted Him to get in my face, just throw off the gloves and start swinging. But He didn’t. I lowered the magazine enough to glimpse at His face. The grin was gone. In its place, a stern look of authority. He glared at me, tiny yellow flares where His pupils should have been. A thin, flat line of a mouth. His nostrils flared, then flared again. He flipped the coin as His chest raised and lowered with deep breathes. Then His eyes returned to normal and He breathed naturally. And still He flipped the coin.
“You’re proving to be most troublesome,” He said, allowing the smirk to return, though laboriously.
“I’m just doin’ how I do,” I said. It was the phrase that I’ve come to adopt as my code of living.
“Yeah, well, how you do is pissing me off,” He said He rose and began strolling around the waiting room. I looked over at the counter. The woman sitting behind it had stopped moving. The nurses behind her had stopped too. They didn’t look natural. They looked like the figures in a wax museum, smiles plastered over blank faces. The guy across from me in the frayed gray Billabong T-shirt was the same, jaw frozen mid-gum chew and his hand suspended over the table next to him with a Mountain Dew almost settled. The woman next to him was locked in place as she bent over to comfort the toddler next to her with a stuffed animal. Meanwhile, as He walked around the lobby, He stopped to take the Kangol hat off a guy looking up at the TV. He put on the hat and check out his reflection in the TV, then put it back on the man’s head.
“What I want to know is do you really think you’re going to make it?”
“One day at a—“
“Oh shut up with that crap,” He said and checked His face in the reflection of a framed picture of a meadow at sunset. “All the clichés in the world won’t keep you sober and you know it. And all the good fortune and second chances and “They believe in me” horseshit doesn’t matter either. I have a weapon you know nothing about. And why should you? I mean, this is your first attempt at sobriety. God knows there will be others,” He said, eyes twinkling. I crossed my legs, lifted an eyebrow slightly, and looked at Him quizzically.
“Drudgery,” He said and the quarter landed on the back of His hand, He glanced at it. “Ohhh, heads. That’s not a good thing for you. I’ll try and explain it so your jacked-up little brain-damaged noodle can wrap its pissy little crab legs around it. The biggest reason addicts and alcoholics like you start doing the deed again is because of the monotonous, soul-crushing boredom that your so-called new life brings. For the simple-minded, this is kept easily at bay by frequent meetings, a decent enough job that they can afford P.F. Chang’s once a month. Maybe a trip to bloody Disneyland before they die.” He sat down across from me again and put His hands in His lap. A gray-and-white cat materialized under His hands and He began stroking it. The cat turned its head to me and hissed.
“This is not the case with you,” He said. “You’re smart, you’re funny, you’ve got a lot going for you. Well, had a lot going for you. That’s where I come in. You’ve managed to screw up your life pretty good with your ‘I’m gonna live life to its fullest and to hell with doing something productive’ mentality” He said as He grabbed the cat’s scruff and yanked its head back, then peered at me. “All on mommy and daddy’s dime, mind you. And now, well, ‘washed up at 38’ kind of starts to grasp where you are buddy boy. Never mind the wasted potential. Never mind the failed and damaged relationships with those who love you. Never mind the strings daddy has had to pull to keep you out of jail. Nope, you went out there and by God you drank and smoked away 2 decades of your life in the name of … what? And now you think with a couple years of clean time you’re just gonna walk away from the excuse for a life you’ve made for yourself? Well sorry Ahab. Doesn’t work that way. You may not have known it at the time, but you opened the door for me a long time ago, I danced in, and you are never getting rid of me. And you can tell yourself you allow me to stick around because you need me blah blah blah. But I am in control, not you. And no matter how you got these people at the Society and your friends and family to believe in you, the recovering alcoholic like you always fails because I win. I win with the drudgery their life becomes. I win because I remind them of the time they wasted and the trust they lost. I get in their head, inch by inch, and dance around a little and tell them they’re a waste of space. And you know what? They believe me. I always win. And all the Zen meditation and flower trays and fuckin’ candles in the world doesn’t change a damn thing, alright?”
I uncrossed my legs and, instead, folded my hands on my lap. Palms up, right hand over the left, thumbs touching. I close my eyes for a moment, then opened them and stared directly at Him.
“Sunshine.” I said simply.