Scenes from an American Diner: A Story in 26 Parts
of us have had our lives touched in some way by the disease of
addiction. Be it a loved one, friend, family member or even ourselves
no one is immune to the impact of this devastating illness. This story
is dedicated to all of those people, especially the ones who have found
recovery through the 12 step fellowship.
"You know, I never used to eat breakfast," Scott said as he watched Eric nosedive into a stack of pancakes with a combination of fascination and disgust on his face. The old man chewed with the fervor of a starving man, leaving syrup and pancake fluff dripping down his chin.
"That's the whole point of eating it now," Eric said, mouth still full.
"God, you're a slob," Ted said. As true of a statement as it was Ted would never admit to enjoying the display. Instead he would mock him relentlessly for making inappropriately happy sounds 'like a 50 dollar whore puttin' on a good show' and then chuckled when the old man called him a pervert.
Eric took a swig of coffee and swallowed hard, then slammed his cup down on the table and pointed a finger at the young man sitting across, a piece of pancake nearly flying off the fork he held.
"You never had breakfast because you were feeding your addiction, right?"
"What do you mean?" Scott asked, rubbing his arms uncomfortably. It was too warm for the sweatshirt but his track marks were too visible without it.
"You got up in the morning and, what, stuck a needle in your arm?" Ted asked.
"Y- yeah," Scott said, his head retreating into his neck as he slumped lower in the booth seat, as if he were trying to vanish.
"So that was your breakfast," Eric said, his mouth once again filled with pancake. He wiped a hand down his beard, trying to shake off excess crumbs. All it really did was serve to spread the syrup further into the thick, gray hairs. "You get into recovery, you gotta feed other things to satisfy that hunger- otherwise you'll go back to it. That's how it works."
"That what all that God stuff is about? 'Filling the spiritual hole' or some shit?" Scott asked, his hands latched to his elbows as if shielding himself from the men at the table.
"This kid's a quick study" Stew said, eying the man next to him with a studious gaze.
"In a nutshell," Eric said, leaning back against the booth and allowing his sizable gut breathing room.
"That and the fact that the whole premise of the program is the idea that you're lacking stuff that you're trying to get from drugs." Ted enjoyed watching him squirm under their support, it reminded him of himself.
"An external solution to an internal problem," Stew added. He sat with a knee up on the bench, facing the kid. His arms made a V shape with one on the back and another draped across the table, acting as a frame for his discomfort.
Scott sighed, and his chest deflated again. "I swear it's too early in the morning for you people."
"Don't think about it too much," Ted said dismissively. "Just go to your meetings, call us and get yourself a temporary sponsor."
"And what the heck is that all about, anyway?" Scott asked, this time his voice raised and a bit of his personality seeped into words.
"It's about you not knowing everything there is to know," Eric said, narrowing his eyes at him and leaning in to say the next. "Your best thinking got you here, remember?"
"Go easy on him or you'll scare him off, ya big bear," Stew said, and made a shooing motion at him with his hand.
"Yeah, well," he said as he reached into his pocket for his wallet. He groaned as he stretched back to access the back of his pants and the bench seat groaned back at him in protest. "I gotta get going anyway. You need a ride?"
"Um, yeah- if- if you're going that way," Scott said, looking at the money he threw on the table with a longing glance.
"No prob, kid," Eric said and got up with another groan. "Well, gentlemen- I take my leave of you," he said as he faced them, and bowed with a formality that his large, clumsy stature would not allow.
"You're full of it," Ted laughed.
Eric flicked him the finger as he turned and strode off and Scott followed with the same slumped shoulders and folded arms he'd cradled himself in throughout the meal.
The two remaining men watched them walk out and then Ted returned to his coffee and stirred.
Stew turned back around in his seat to face his friend and lowered his eyebrows at him. "So," he began, "you make the call?"