“That’s the mistake some people make, thinking they don’t need help
anymore. They’ve gotten past it; they’ve done the time, put in the work.
But the years, the chips, they never stack up into a suit of armor.” He fills
up his coffee cup and fills my cup back up without asking. It’s shit coffee,
especially at the tail end of a meeting.
“Something’s happened,” I insist.
He takes some time fretting with the miserable muffin and then
speaks with reluctance. Finally, he says, “It’s Kayla, and it’s bad.” Not
that I’m surprised. Girl seemed bad to me.
He strokes the mustache. It looks soft as a kitten. “That’s about all I
can say. Jesse will tell you about it, if and when he wants to.” Andy stares
miserably into his coffee cup, and so do I, into mine.
“He’s not called me much this week. Guess that makes sense now.” I
admit this, though instantly I wish I hadn’t. I sound needy. The hall has
now emptied. It’s just Jesse and Abby behind the door. I feel my own
clock ticking: eleven more days. Summer. Summer drinks.
Perhaps I give that vibe off like a perfume. Suddenly, Andy is exam-
ining me too closely. “Like you said, Jesse’s a badass. He’s been through
the shit. He can handle this. Still, if you can give him a couple of days,
that might help. He’ll be fine.”
He pushes at the fine sloth-like hair on his forehead. Forces a smile.
“But if you can’t, if things get rough for you, call me. I’m here for you.
Always.” He’s fumbling around in his wallet for a card. “I’m not Jesse,
but I’m here for you. Twenty-four seven.” They say that all the time, the
AA folks. God, they drive shit into the ground.
I mumble something like appreciation, take his card, and leave.
The eleven days crawl by. Jesse doesn’t call, when he used to call every
day. I don’t really know what to think about that. Maybe I’m sad. Maybe
I’m pissed. Technically, I don’t have to go to any more AA meetings; Jesse
signed off on the ninety meetings required by the court two weeks ago.
But I do go to a couple of meetings, just out of habit and curiosity about
Jesse. He’s not there at either meeting, and word has it, he’s fallen off the
wagon. I’m gobsmacked by this. I should start believing in UFOs as well.
Abby’s not at the meetings either; that makes it real. I picture her
going to Jesse’s house, sitting in the pine-paneled den, she and Marlena
trying to talk to Jesse. I have a really hard time thinking about it. I wonder if he’s even at home—would Marlena let him drink? Or is he at a bar