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.
Ted sat at the booth in the corner, his new favorite spot he'd found, and thought. His hands were once again tearing up sugar packets and his mind raced over the details of the last few days. The last meeting he saw him at was Thursday when they'd all hit the pizza place afterwards and he'd disappeared after his phone rang. Nothing Friday. Nothing Saturday, and he'd texted. Sunday he'd called twice. Yesterday must have been... he looked through his phone- seven times. And countless texts. He looked through the sent messages again, scanning for a response he somehow missed, even though he knew nothing was there from having scanned it roughly every half hour today.
Stew came in looking downtrodden and tired and made his way across the room, nearly colliding with Alice due to lack of attention.
"Whoopsy-daisy," she said as she masterfully tilted the tray to prevent everything from sliding off. "Watch it there, sweetie."
Stew tried to apologize but she was off to her table before he could make the sound come out. He sighed and hung his shoulders, then made his way to the table. He sat down across from Ted and laid his phone on the table.
"Still quiet?" Ted asked him.
"Still quiet. No word from Eric?"
"Nope- spoke to Greg a little while ago, he said he's been putttin' feelers out in some of the meetings out near Middletown but hasn't heard anything. And I talked to Jared- he says he can't get in touch with him, either. He should have been more on top of that kid."
"It's not his fault. If you relapsed do you think it'd be right to blame me?"
"If you were never around! If I never saw you at a meeting and whenever I called you you were busy and you didn't have the time of day for me and-"
"You don't know that, Ted- slow down."
"I know he should have been there," he said, and threw the sugar packet he'd been destroying towards the corner in disgust.
"Hey, don't make a mess of my booth, now," Alice said as she came over. "More coffee?"
"Nah, I'm good," Ted said. "Sorry."
"And you?" she asked, raising the pot she wielded towards Stew.
"Sure," he said, and pushed the mug towards her.
"You two ordering anything today or just taking up space?" she teased as she poured.
"The latter," Ted said, dryly.
"Can I at least interest you in a piece of pie or some cream cake? It'll help," she smiled.
"No thanks, Alice," Stew said, softly.
"What's got you two looking so damned morbid, anyway?"
"Scott's missing," Ted said, and that lost look came into eyes again.
"That sweet boy that's always followin' you two around? What happened?"
"Don't know. No one' seen or heard from him since Thursday."
"Well, have you called the police?" she asked, her wide eyes worried.
"Not that kind of missing," Stew said, taking her hand and giving it a quick squeeze.
Her gaze softened as she noticed the look in his eyes. "Oh," she said. She shot a glance at Ted and then back at Stew who just shook his head.
"Well, I'll come back in a bit to check on you," she said as she walked away.
Ted, who had been staring off into nothing and missed the interlude spoke as if he'd been having a conversation with Stew the whole time. "I should have noticed something was off- he's never that quiet. Me rambling on about some damned picture and him sitting there silent- I should have known."
"How are you supposed to know what's going on inside somebody else's head? What're you, God?"
"No, don't be an ass."
"I'm not being anything- I'm just saying that you didn't do this. Ok? Whatever he's up to, wherever he is- you didn't put him there. You can't blame yourself for somebody's else's problems. Remember what we say every meeting- God, grant me the serenity to accept the-"
"Please, I'm begging you- if I hear that thing one more time-" Ted interrupted.
"Accept the things I cannot change," he raised his voice, talking over him, "courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. This is the difference, Ted."
"I really hate you, you know that?" Ted said, glaring at him.
"Well, that's the first sane thing you've said," Stew said, and smiled at him. At first it was a grin, wide and mean. But as he looked at his friend it faded into something softer, more genuine. "We'll find him."
"And if we don't?"
But Stew didn't have time to answer because just at that moment his phone rang. He checked the screen briefly and then shoved it to his ear with a frantic "Hello?"
Ted watched his face change and it was all he could do not to grab the phone away from him. He nodded at Stew frantically and made wild hand gestures trying to ask what the hell the other person was telling him.
Stew held up a hand bidding him to wait and said "Where?" He nodded, said "be right there," and hung up.
"Well?" Ted asked.
"They found him, " Stew said.