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 goin, or just gettin' out?" Jim asked, nodding towards Ted.
He suddenly felt stupid and insensitive in a way that made him hate his ability to speak and choked on the response before he could make it.
Stew played rescuer out of impatience and spoke up saying "He meant metaphorically."
"Oh," Jim said, and shut down, his gaze returning to the empty space he'd been staring into so intently.
Ted hated himself more than he had before coming in, and hated Jim for making him feel that way, and hated himself more for hating him. On the outside, however, he just looked down at his coffee and frowned.
"Yeah, see- they talk about stuff like that, and they teach you stuff, and you gotta listen because that's how it all starts to make sense," Scott explained, gesticulating rapidly towards Ryan as he did.
Stew observed the man with a growing suspicion and was troubled by a feeling which grew stronger with each word he excitedly spoke.
"It's like, you realize you kind-of know it, like you've always known it- but it was buried under so much shit you never knew, sort-of," Scott said, clearly oblivious to the fact that his young protege was entirely too physically preoccupied to comprehend any of his poorly defined explanation.
Ted noticed Ryan's unsure glance around the place and felt he knew what he was looking for.
"Bathroom's are right back there," he said, nodding behind him.
Ryan craned his neck and then, seeing his salvation, lifted himself off the bench in a decidedly painful way and limped towards the bathroom. Jim took the opportunity to remove himself from a situation he'd clearly been trying to find a way out of and said "I better get going, too." He turned and walked out before Scott could get out any more than a plea to call him.
Seizing the opportunity Stew warned his friend with a question. "What are you doing?"
"What?" Scott asked, a confusion on his face.
"That kid is entirely too green for you to be shoving all this stuff down his throat- you're not gonna do anything but scare him away," Stew said, doing his best to keep his voice patient, and kind.
"And Jim doesn't seem like he's entirely bought into any of this in the first place," Ted said, watching the door close behind the man.
"But I- I'm getting them hooked up. That's what you said, right? Get connected?" Scott said, the defensiveness clear in his voice.
"Yeah, but you gotta seek it out- remember? You came with us, nobody dragged you here. You asked the questions- you gotta want it yourself or else it's not gonna stick," Ted said, in a decidedly less patient tone. "That kid needs real help, not a dime philosopher."
Scott looked down at his hands, suddenly sheepish.
"It's good that you want to help, but you gotta kind-of ease into the heavier stuff. For now just invite him to meetings with you and Jared. And if he wants, Jared can get him hooked up with a sponsor," Stew said.
"Talk to Jared about it," Ted said, redirecting him back to his sponsor, who should've been keeping a better eye on him anyway.
Scott nodded, but his face showed defeat.
Stew looked at Ted, giving him a hardened expression. Ted raised his eyebrows at him. Stew nodded towards Scott with a vigorous jerk of his head and Ted looked at the figure next to him. The slumped shoulders, the nervous fiddling of the hands- all the excited energy he'd come in with now drained out of him. He couldn't take it.
He slid a tiny bit closer to him in the seat and punched his arm to get his attention. Scott turned and looked at him.
"This stuff's hard, you know that," he said, gently.
"I know- that's why I wanted to-"
"And you yourself are still so new to it," Ted continued, passing by the interuption without letting it affect his words. "It's sort of a tricky balancing act in the beginning- trying to take take care of yourself while helping getting the new people hooked up. But that's the best you can do- hook them up with people with more clean time, don't take on the burden yourself."
"But isn't that what they always say- help the newcomer?"
"Yeah, but you're not really not new yourself. You're still in your first 90, right?" Stew asked.
"47- today," Scott said, a smile returning.
"Your parents proud of you?" Ted asked.
"My mom is! My dad... he still doesn't trust me. I mean, he says he's proud when my mom asks him at dinner, but the way he looks at me. You can tell..."
"He'll come around, just keep to it," Ted added before that ghostly look could completely steal the smile.
"He coming to pick you up?" Stew asked.
"Nah, Ryan said he'd give me a ride."
"Be careful with him," Stew said, unable to ignore the suspicion he'd had since watching the way the kid moved.
Scott didn't have time to ask exactly what he meant as in that moment the subject of their conversation returned from the bathroom, looking even paler than he had when he entered.
"You ready to go?" Scott asked, standing up from the bench with a swiftness that made Ted's guilt re-emerge.
"You don't have to go," he said, even though just moments prior he'd been cursing his arrival.
"Nah, I should get home- I got a job interview tomorrow," Scott said, and the brightness was back in his eyes.
Ted smiled at him, and it was genuine. "Knock 'em dead."
"Nice meeting you!" Stew called after Ryan as he started walking away.
The kid made a half nod to him and then started shuffling towards the door. Scott gave a wave as he followed. Ted watched them both leave with concern in his eyes, hoping he'd been kind enough to make up for his horrible greeting.