Last Monday was a perfect summer day – low 80s and not a fluffy cloud in the sky. I wander out of my oppressive office job at my lifeless company to grab an exciting lunch – chicken caesar salad, hold the chicken. I’m standing at the cross-walk waiting for the light to change, and this bouncy fella bounces over to me, and asks with breathless bounciness:
“Excuse me. Do you know your way around this neighborhood?”
I say, “Sort of”. (I’ve worked here for five goddamn years and have refused to learn the street names – o! Boston! How I hated thee!). “What are you trying to find?” I ask.
He, let’s call him “Daemon”, throws his hands up to his face and says with playful exasperation, “A BAR!”.
Of all the business casual fish in the sea of the lunch rush, this guy reels me in. That sign across my forehead apparently still says, “Really bad idea! Really good time!”
But I think: Hot dog! I now see how my experience can benefit others! My feeling of uselessness has disappeared! Have you asked the right person for directions to a bar, or what!!
I say, demurely, ”What kind of bar are you looking for? Sports bar? Dive bar? Pretty girl bar? Martini bar? Karaoke bar?”
He stops me and says dive bar. I think of Wedgies, the most terrifying dive I have ever been to, and that’s saying a lot. I was there one time (one time) and some wild-man truck-driver fresh out of the clink in Maine and fresh off the bus from South Station really really liked my hair, and invited himself to sit with me, Jesssie, and JM. He took out my hair elastic and proceeded to (try to) run his fingers through my hair which is hysterical and if you knew what my hair looked like you’d know why. And he did this unnerving thing with his shot glasses of whisky – he smashed them onto the tops of beer bottles before he slammed them – anyone know what that’s about? Anyway, we were all too afraid of Mr. Scary to tell him to get his grubby mitts off my head, so I just sat there being scalp-raped (which is legitimate rape) and hoped to ease some tension with a few “Shawshank Redemption” jokes, you know – him, jail, Maine . I don’t know if he thought they were as funny as I did. Probably not.
So, scratch Wedgies. How about Foley’s! I’ve moved to and from Boston 8,000 times since 1990, and seems I have always landed at Foley’s (read: was a barfly) during each drive-by, but I didn’t bother trying to give Daemon directions – I don’t know any street names and I was always on autopilot when I frequented the joint – forever a girl on a mission. It was a beautiful day, so I decided to escort our tattooed tourist to the bar… why ever not? He tells me he just moved to Vermont from San Francisco and was visiting a friend in Providence, but missed his bus back to Vermont, and I automatically think, “SCORE!!! Perfect excuse to get drunk at high noon on a Monday! Lucky you, Daemon!!!”. And then I think, “San Francisco?!”
So I say, “I lived in San Francisco for a long time! Where did you live?”
He says, “The Mission”.
I say, “I lived in The Mission for a while! Where did you live?”
He says, “20th and Mission”.
This is one block from where I lived during a particularly shady time of my life. Not My Finest Hour, but up there.
I say, “Noooooooooooooooooo way! I lived on 20th and S. Van Ness for a while!”
He says, “Noooooooooooooooo way!”
I say, “Way!”
And we’re off! What a coincidence that he asks ME for directions in Boston only to find out that 3000 miles and fourteen years ago we lived one block from each-other in San Francisco! AND come to find out that we were both speed freaks at that time, probably both psychotic and hiding in our respective rooms at the same time! How FUN!!! What a small world!!! SF speed freaks are a special breed of lunatic and that’s probably why we were drawn to each-other – no matter where we find ourselves, we will always vibrate at the same dangerous and erratic frequency, and we will always succumb to each-other’s soothing come-hither whale song – a catchy little hair-raising number played at 78RPM. And there we were – two cute crystal meth motor mouths waxing insane about the good ol’ days. I was catapulted back to 1998, and although it pains me to say this, it brought back some happy memories.
So, we arrive at Foley’s and he asks me if I will join him. I tell him I don’t drink and that I should really get back to work, my salad is getting cold. He clearly doesn’t care. He says, “You don’t have to drink! C’mon! I’ll buy you fries!”
My worst fear was realized: I got sucked into a bar.
So he says to me he says, “How long have you been in the program?”
I say, “Actually, today is exactly one year and four months!”
He says, “Oooo so you have over a year, huh?”
Pleased with myself, I say, “Yes!” and then immediately catch myself and think, AAAAAARRRGGGGG!!!!!!!! I walked right into that one! Wait. When did I tell my new friend I was in AA? And how the hell does he know stuff about AA? Whatever. He’s cute. But I do wonder how he gets jobs with that tear-drop tattoo under his eye? Hmm. JK.
I eat fries. He drinks Guinness and whisky at high noon on a Monday, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I admire his shamelessness. We talked about the old neighborhood bars, I asked him if he knew “Funky” the bartender at Shotwell’s, and he said we probably know some of the same people. I shudder and ask, “Do you remember someone named “Kara? No?” Phew. We decide that neither of us wants to “go there”. Again, perfectly fine that neither of us cared to find out if we knew each-other or had mutual friends in our previous lives in SF – we were shady drug addicts (and he was a dealer! Bonus!) and now we prefer to nervously laugh and change the subject. Out of sight, out of mind! Didn’t happen if I have no witnesses! Didn’t matter that I had no witnesses because I sent them all running for the hills! Or slinking away, hoping I wouldn’t notice and make a scene, is more like it. And at the time, I probably didn’t notice. Like sands through the hourglass, so were the friends of my life.
I had to go back to work, but it was so much more fun hanging at a bar with a speed freak who was getting drunk in the middle of a Monday afternoon – I now know that that really only looks like more fun on paper. He wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to get to Vermont, so he might end up in Boston for the night. Fantastic! We exchanged phone numbers. I told him I was meeting my sponsor then had to go to a meeting in Cambridge after work because I was Chip Chick that month. He said that that sounded like fun and if he wasn’t too drunk, he’d like to come with me. I thought that was a smashingly tiptop idea! I’ve been to a few AA meetings out of town, and they were lovely, a very welcoming lot we boozebags are! I could introduce him to my friends! Isn’t it crazy that we lived one block from each-other in SF??
So, I meet Nelissa, go the meeting, raise my hand and talk about this wacky thing that happened at lunch. I wasn’t concerned that I wound up in a bar with a stranger in the middle of a work-day – in fact, I thought it was a miracle of recovery that I wound up in a bar with a stranger in the middle of a work-day and didn’t drink, nor even wanted to drink! Progress! I heart sobriety! I told “JayBayBeeGirl” more about charming Daemon at the break and said I was going to leave and meet him in town. She gently suggested that I stay through the end of the meeting. I said okie dokie, and then ended up having cheeseburgers after the meeting with Rubbah Fox, and poured my soul out to him yet again about my longing and heart-sickness over you-don’t-know-who (FH). I didn’t forget about Daemon – I just didn’t feel like seeing him anymore and felt no urgency to contact him. Our plans were tentative anyway and depended on how drunk he would be. This did not alarm me. This seemed reasonable.
I was on the train when I remembered that my phone was off. I turned it on to – whoa mama! – a very angry drunken litany of insults. By my calculation, Daemon had been waiting for me drinking for ten hours. In summary, he said he would try to find me so he could scream obscenities at me all night until his train came, and that I was a flake and a tease, and he said he was very upset because he was lost all day, got stood up, and then broke his foot (?).
Something that I think is magical about AA and Love and recovery is how gently I am treated by almost everyone and in almost every way. This whole encounter with Daemon slays me! It’s side-splitting, it’s terrifying, it’s my life. I ignored the ticker-tape of red flags surrounding this guy. I WENT TO A BAR. But then I met with my Nelissa. I went to a meeting. I hung out with my dearests and nearests JBBG and RF. I did everything right. I got textually assaulted by Daemon. I dodged many bullets and put myself in and/or almost put myself in very dangerous situations. But somehow, looking back, I think I recognize a force field in play for the first time in my life! I talk about this lack o’ force field a lot in therapy because I have always felt exposed, like I was always bitch-slapped and blind-sided by people’s insensitivity, because I’ve always been “too sensitive”. My therapist says I need a force field, and I’m all OK hot-shot, how do I get one, and he’s all keep going to AA. I’m not kidding – he says that, he’s always said that. Dick. But I think I understand! I did not beat myself senseless for going to a bar and waaaaaay over-sharing with a stranger – it wasn’t a good idea and hopefully I won’t do it again but I didn’t drink and I told all my friends in AA right after it happened. I was being watched over and protected. They were not dismayed or disappointed. We were all happy and encouraged that I didn’t drink! That’s recovery! Because really, it’s irrelevant if I am in a bar or on Jupiter, if I want to drink, I’ll find a way. (I wonder if they serve Jupitertinis up there? Spacetinis?). I did know Daemon from San Francisco, whether I knew him or knew him, he was my people. Daemons were a dime a dozen out there back then. But he’s not my people now. I sashayed out of the bar not with hysteria over what could have happened, but with a spring in my step remembering that that time in my life was not all utter catastrophe. I had fun and I did drugs because they felt so good, not because I am so stupid and so trashy. I’ve found a little peace with my past, which I believe is called Recovery. Love and AA gave me a gentle reminder that those days are gone, and that there is much more happiness yet to be had…and I was given free fries as a big ol’ hug for accepting and embracing these truths. FREE FRIES!!!!!!!!!