JJ bumped into Watt the Baker at the downtown coffee spot. Watt asked, “Why don’t you come back to meetings?”
“Things are good, trending up,” JJ said.
“We’re headed into the Bermuda Triangle y’know,” Watt said. “Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years. A good time to check in.”
“I’m good. My family is in my life,” JJ said. “I slipped up a little last summer but it’s been good since.”
“After you won all that money?”
“Yeah, that night.”
“Man, I would be dead by now if I won that money,” Watt said.
“Are you always that close to drinking?”
Watt looked at him. “It’s always one day at a time. I don’t think about it all the time but I’m vigilant.”
“I’m vigilant too,” JJ said. “Mostly.”
“Man, it’s life or death with me. I have no doubt I’d be under a bridge within a month of picking up.”
JJ thought of drinking. He looked back at the long tussle of on-again, off-again, in and out of AA, moving around the country, geographic cures then coming back home. He doubted he would end up under a bridge or living on the streets. Not now, with the farm and all. Not with the money buffer. No, JJ thought, I’ll just sink slowly into a living death, become a bitter shell of a human, and live a disgusting swamp-zombie existence. And with no real job now to keep up appearances. And the farm, all alone up there. Projects, yes, but nothing really needing to be done. Venturing out only for liquor and food. Then only liquor and cigarettes. And the money wouldn’t run out until… Holy shit, he thought, I’m on the fucking edge!
“I’m fine,” JJ said.
“You look a little scared,” Watt said.
“Tell you what, I’ll hit a meeting before Thanksgiving.”
“I’ll meet you downtown tomorrow night,” Watt said. “Let’s grab a bite and go to the 7:00.”
“I see what you’re doing, hooking me like that.” But JJ smiled and shook Watt’s hand. “Alright. Meet at Jake’s at 6:00. I’m buying.”
“Great,” Watt said, moving away then turning back to JJ. “You know it’s gratitude month. What’re you grateful for?”
The idea of “gratitude month” made something clench inside JJ and he felt a revulsion in his gut like he just saw a fresh plump roadkill. Now he remembered why he couldn’t stick in AA. The terrible slogans. The “Bermuda Triangle” of holidays. The clapping and all that awful joy. He felt the clenching, the tightening of intolerance, then the withdrawal of being too cool for all that.
“Watt, I’m grateful to be alive. But I’ll pass on the meeting and dinner tomorrow.”
“Are you serious? I thought…”
“Some other time,” JJ said and turned away.
“We’ll save a seat for you,” Watt called after him.
JJ stalked off. But behind the rising tide of resistance and resentment inside him, a small stifled voice said, “You better.” And JJ kept walking.