#16: After an AA meeting, Robert hits the Waffle House
Robert and Janet plopped into folding chairs in the rear of the large meeting room of Galano, a gay clubhouse that hosts all kinds of 12-step meetings.
The occasion was their mutual friend and hair-stylist Ralph’s first anniversary without alcohol, crystal meth, overeating, emotional outbursts or masturbating and failing to wash his hands before touching a client’s hair.
Ralph, 27, was arrested when he offered a policeman a hit of crystal in the parking lot of a Cheshire Bridge bar. He spent the night in a holding cell dressed in the black rubber singlet he wore for the bar’s fetish night.
The AA meeting began. Robert tried not to stare at the hot crystal meth addicts in the room. His attention waxed and waned as the group discussed gratitude.
“I come home and the electricity was cut off and my pet turtle had got out his box somehow and I couldn’t find him,” someone was saying.
“Plus, there was nothing in the refrigerator ‘cept a single beer my roommate left there. I said to myself, ‘Now is the time to have an attitude of gratitude for my sobriety,’ so I lit some candles and prayed.
“You know what? That turtle crawled right out in front of me and I had no hesitation setting him in the sink and dousing him with that beer, because I knew he’d love it and I didn’t need it. That’s what gratitude means to me, and, another thing…”
So it went. After an hour, Ralph rose to receive his first-anniversary blue chip. He thanked everyone and talked briefly about how grateful he was to hear the turtle story.
“My baby sister had a little turtle when we were kids and I stepped on it by mistake,” he said. “Today, thanks to AA, I can tell myself that I’m grateful I didn’t kill my baby sister instead.”
Everyone applauded. The group broke up. Janet and Robert hugged Ralph and asked him to dinner, but he was heading to a celebration with his AA friends.
“I’m exhausted,” Janet said. “Can we just grab something simple and quick?”
“That took it out of me too,” Robert said. “Let’s hit the Waffle House.”
“Oh, I love the Waffle House,” Janet said. “It’s pure theater, even if the food sucks.”
They sat in the front of the restaurant. Robert, looking around, was shocked, once again, to see Lee eating at the bar. He whispered to Janet, “I think I’m being stalked for real.”
Janet looked up and shot Robert a skullrattling eyeroll.
“He’s really weird,” she said. “I think you’ve picked another lunatic as a possible boyfriend.”