Everyone agreed: The dog was dead because I’d left the garage door open, and I’d left the garage door open because I had a drinking problem.
I thought they were being too hard on me. Lawyers forget to close doors. Senators, grandmothers, and otherwise very responsible children might forget, but this time the dog had gone running through the night after me and got squashed, so what else could I do but start going to meetings.
Right off the bat, they were all, “I’m whoever and I’m an alcoholic.” Picture bad coffee swirling around in Styrofoam cups, the cold metal folding chairs and the repentant, gravelly faces; it’s just how you think it is.
Mostly the people were very religious and sorry about how they’d behaved.
“I can’t even conceive of what it was like before I let Jesus into my heart,” a lady said. “Who was that person?”
Everyone agreed that person was awful, but powerless.
“Oh my God. What do people who don’t have Jesus do?” The room went still while all the believers tried to comprehend what people without Jesus do.
An addict named John talked about throwing away his needles and then diving back into the dumpster after them. A girl wearing high heels and panty hose said that she told her friends that she didn’t mind when they drank wine around her at dinner, but she was lying; really, she hated them all. One of the men had gotten drunk and ran over a skier with his pontoon boat. A woman had been arrested while trying to steal her neighbor’s trampoline in the middle of the night. She said her children watched the cops take her away in handcuffs. I realized that drunks are selfish, monstrous people, and I knew I was guilty.
“Hi. My name’s Dorothy,” I said. “The people I work for think I’m an alcoholic.”
“You’re in a safe place.” A man in a bowling shirt said. “Say whatever’s on your mind.”
I got caught up in staring at this mural someone had painted on the wall. It was Donald Duck in a field of flowers. His head was all out of proportion, the little sailor suit ill fitting, and I couldn’t believe we were forced to look at it. It made me mad.
“I spent some time in New York a couple of summers ago,” I started. “I met this old gypsy. She was telling me how in the forties, back when horses were everywhere like cars, they tried to bring a horse up to the second floor. I don’t know why, because of the cold or something. It was fine getting the horse up, but when it came time to go down again, the horse wouldn’t budge. We’re talking days of this. They stopped feeding him, whipped him, practically tried to throw him down the stairs, but the horse is just so fucking evolutionarily attuned to fear that slope that the gypsies just couldn’t make him go down the stairs.”
“That’s really interesting,” One of the Christian women said. “What’s the point of your story?”
“If you lead a horse to an upstairs apartment, they won’t go back down again and you have to kill them.”
I heard basement coffee gurgle in the heroin addict’s stomach. “Keep coming back,” He said. And they all murmured after him, like an amen, “Thank you for sharing,” and “Keep coming back.”
I stood outside waiting for my ride under a canopy in the rain. There was just one woman left, and she gave me a cigarette. She had red hair and a tired face. “It gets easier,” She said.
“Yeah, well. I doubt I’ll be back.”
“I know you. You went to school with my son. Casey.”
My mind went back to the beginning, starting with the red square of carpet and then the rows of orange lockers, and there he was. I couldn’t remember: was it Casey who shot himself in the head on mushrooms, or was it his friend Chris?
“How is he?” I asked.
“He’s good. He’s a veterinarian. He just had a little girl.”
Casey’s mom looked a lot like my mom. She had that same quiver in her bottom lip that suggested she could go off at any moment, that no one was safe. The rain beat down on the canopy above our heads and I felt sorry for both of us.
“I miss my mother,” I said. “She’s a lesbian hoarder. She can’t stop buying dolls. I have to do something.”
“Best way to help her is to help yourself,” Casey’s Mom said.
“Trite!” I said, and Casey’s mom started crying.
“Oh my god, I’m sorry.”
“You know, I’ve had a really rough day.”
“Jesus. I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
My ride pulled up to the curb and honked the horn, even though I was right there. I touched Casey’s mom’s shoulder and she turned away.
“You were always bad,” she said.
“Come on. That’s not true.” I opened the passenger door. “Do you want a ride?”
Casey’s mom looked at me with eyes traced in charcoal. Her cigarette curled around her red, sticky lips. “Dorothy. I remember when you were this big.” She held her hand out in front of her, where my head used to be. “You were always bad.”
Molly Laich lives inside her laptop. You can find parts of her at wigleaf, Necessary Fiction, PANK, Specter Magazine and so on. Molly tweets about fruit and blogs about sobriety at http://www.mollylaich.com. She wants you to know that you are blessed.