The days are passing by. The countdown until I’m off the hook. At the
Wednesday meeting, I look for Jesse. I’ve gotten there early, and I’m
thinking about going to the podium, saying something. He’ll be expecting me to give a final testimony because he believes that I’ll continue my
sobriety, that he’ll continue to be my sponsor, that we’ll last forever, like
that sappy Céline Dion song from Titanic.
But I don’t see Jesse, which is odd. He’s always early. Finally, he appears just as the doors are closing and the meeting begins. He comes in
with Abby. They are talking in a serious manner. I can’t recall seeing
him talk to Abby in some time. Abby was his sponsor, or I guess is his
sponsor. She’s one of the oldest people here and is beloved, almost like an
Earth mother. It’s her day to begin the meeting, so as she heads up front,
Jesse sits down on the left side, four rows away, without even looking for
me. I feel a little miffed.
“Hey, buddy,” I say, sidling up to him after the meeting.
“Dee, everything good?”
“Life is good,” I say to him with a big smile. “Eleven more days” is
what I don’t say. I notice he has a bandage wrapped around his right
hand. It’s half-assed and gnarly. I ask him about it. “Yard work,” he says
and looks away.
I remember that Marlene, his wife, had a birthday over the weekend.
I tell him I hope she had a good birthday celebration. And he looks away
again and says, “After a certain age, I guess they don’t matter that much.”
This is not a standard Jesse answer. He believes in celebrations; he
believes in honoring his wife. He goes all out for family things. I feel
somewhat ashamed because some time ago Jesse told me about his plan
for her birthday, but I can’t remember what the plan was.
I’ve met Marlene twice, the first time at a family restaurant with
lots of fried Southern food. She was drowning her collard greens with
hot pepper vinegar. I could hardly watch her eat. She’s a sweet ginger-
colored lady, larger, softer-looking than I expected. I’ve been to their
house only once, for lasagna, a spontaneous invitation. That was when I
met Kayla, Jesse’s beloved daughter. Kayla is the reason Jesse finally got
sober. He told me, “Suddenly, I had something really little to take care
of, when damn, I couldn’t even take care of myself.”
Kayla was not at all what I expected. She was not golden light and
love like he had described her. She was a chubby, sullen sixteen-year-old
with her nose pierced, badly dyed blond hair, and a skull freshly tattooed
on her inner right arm. I was shocked and somewhat repulsed. Kayla