Joseph was skeptical. But he had looked for people to sit with for some time. The retreats were powerful stull. He felt his whole insides torn apart and put back together. He felt he was on the verge of something. Something different from anything he had known before. Different from church. Different from booze or dope or sex. He tried to explain it to others, but there were not any words.
It was not all good feelings. For several days on retreat things repeatedly came up. Things buried so deep he had not even thought to talk about them with his sponsor. He remembered things that happened during blackouts; strange women from the past, bar fights he lost and put out of his mind. Joseph remembered throwing bottles at Amanda one night during a screaming match, though he did not remember what the fight was about.
By the seventh day all that had changed. He worked through those things and let them go. What was left was peace of mind. Something he had searched for his entire life through music and booze and sex he found through sitting still and following his breath.
But he knew the feeling would not last. It had been two months now and the feelings of elation and peace waned. He went around town looking for a group he could sit with where he could maybe get some of that back. An old friend suggested this group and so he came to try it out.
Joseph saw someone waving at him from across the room. He recognized the woman as Patti, a friend from years before. She joined the group a few years ago after her marriage ended. Joseph was happy to see her. She was one of his old friends that still spoke to him after he hit bottom. Next to her was a skinny dark-haired girl in glasses. He was instantly intrigued. Something about her, her nervousness, the way she did not look at him directly, perhaps, made him want to get to know her more. Joseph approached them and Patti said, “We saved a cushion for you.”
He sat between the two women, wrestling his legs into the half-lotus position. It bothered his legs, but it straightened out his back. After a long time sitting, having a straight spine was the only thing that mattered.
The skinny woman with the glasses held out her hand. “I’m Anne,” she said. “Patty’s been telling me about you.”
“I can only imagine,” he said.
Anne blushed. “She said you’re a guitar player. And a successful one. You work for television?”
“I used to work for television,” he said. “I haven’t done that in a few years. Now I teach 14 year old boys how to play ‘Stairway to Heaven.’”
“That must be rewarding,” she said.
“It pays the bills,” he said. “Or rather, it doesn’t pay the bills. But after I got sober and was penniless, it was the only thing I knew how to do.” He thought, Why do you have to tell everyone you meet that you’re in recovery in the first few minutes?
She looked down and away. They did not say anything else. She was interested, he thought. I’ve blown it already.
In a few minutes, the speaker came to lead the guided meditation which included some visualization which was different from what Joseph was used to. Joseph tried to be open, but the feeling he had back on the retreat was not there. He noticed himself being distracted by Anne sitting next to him, so close their bodies almost touched. He opened his eyes and saw her chest rise and fall ever so subtly. Her breasts were small, tiny even, but it did not take much for his thoughts to imagine what they looked like and what she might be like in bed.
His thoughts continued to race while he attempted to focus on the visualization. He wanted to be drunk. He wanted to taste her neck. He wanted a nice buzz. A cigarette. To smell the nape of her neck. He wanted to lose control. To just let go of everything he was trying to build. He wanted to let go of everything.
Afterwards, Joseph walked Anne to her car and they exchanged numbers.
“I have to go home,” she said.
“I have a partner,” she said. “He’s a good man.”
“I’m just saying . . . it was nice meeting you,” she said.
“It was,” he said. “Maybe I’ll see you here again.”
“Maybe,” she said. She shuffled off. He watched her go into her car and drive away. He hoped that she would turn her head and look at him one last time before she was gone. She did not.
Joseph took out his phone and scrolled through his contacts till he came to his sponsor’s name. He put his phone away without calling. That girl is trouble, he thought.