Lila knocked on the door but no one came. She banged, listened, and could barely hear a mechanical hum or whine coming from inside so she just opened the door and went into the farmhouse kitchen. A panic or dread, a sudden fear, rose up from her gut and she remembered a recent dream about something like this. In the dream, she passed through a door and someone was dead on the floor of a kitchen.
She found him in the upstairs bathroom drying money with a hair dryer. There were 100s spread out on the bath mat and JJ was drying them, sweeping the hair dryer back and forth. There was a soggy heap of 100s still in the tub. JJ was crouching in a pair of gym shorts and his pale back was to the door so Lila could just watch and take it all in.
“What are you doing?”
JJ turned off the hairdryer and looked at her. “Drying money,” he said. “I started to take a shower but forgot about the money bath.”
“Yeah, that’s why I went to the bank. I didn’t have enough to fill the tub.”
“Are you drinking?”
“I was,” he said. “I’m not now.”
“Earlier, but not now. Listen, I’m ready to stop. I have to stop.”
“What are you going to do about it?”
“You’re going to drive me to AA.”
“Where’s your car?”
“There was an incident. Listen, thanks for coming but you gotta bring me tonight, before I change my mind.”
There was something almost childlike in his earnest delivery. Like, “The tooth fairy won’t come if you don’t put it under the pillow.” He seemed detached from what he was saying, but serious, like he didn’t want to talk about the gaunt and crazy shell of a man in the same room. He just needed to go. And she was his ride.
“I can do this,” she thought and hope rose in her. “Keep your expectations low,” she thought, recalling her Al-anon friend, Maria. “Like Death Valley low.”
“OK,” she said. “How long ‘til the meeting?”
“Two hours,” he said. “Help me dry this money.”
She took a deep breath. “Leave the money, JJ. Get dressed and we’re going. We’ll get something to eat and then we’re going to the meeting. I’m going downstairs now. Clean up and then we’re going.”
JJ stared and took his own deep breath as she clomped down the stairs, on a mission. “This won’t be easy,” he said and scooped up the soggy 100s in the tub, put them in the sink, and started the shower again.