Ethan sat in the stiff backed chair and tried not to fidget. These meetings could be so tedious at times, but they actually seemed to help. But at the moment, the thirteenth step seemed to be mastering the urge to tear out Marissa's larynx with one of the plastic coffee spoons sitting on the card table next to the coffee machine.
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"I used to be a real T.V. watcher, you know. I mean, I taped all the soaps faithfully every day, on account of being such a drama queen. But since I've been coming to these meetings I don't need that. Listening to you guys' stories is better than any soap opera..."
Ethan tried to focus on the gurgle of the percolating coffee in hopes that it's sound would soothe his nerves. Marissa's insinuation that listening to the life-stories of recovering alcoholics was somehow a form of entertainment, her own personal reality T.V. show was almost as grating as the nasal Brooklyn sound of her voice.
He had to admit, that in spite of her nails-over-slate voice, and complete lack of sense and compassion that she wasn't at all hard on the eyes. If she wasn't so completely empty headed, he might consider giving her a roll. She was tall and just a few pounds shy of being considered willowy. Her hair was a rich brown wave of ringlets that framed her delicate features and warm hazel eyes. Her taste is jewelry ran towards turquoise and silver and she certainly dressed well. Ethan suspected that her total lack of personality and the irritating nasal sound of her voice were the only reasons she wasn't decorating some up and coming lawyers arm at an upscale restaurant on the east side of town instead of torturing this collection of washed out drunks in the gymnasium of the local elementary school.
"I mean, I dont really consider myself an alcoholic. I never drink alone. I'm more of what you'd call a social imbiber. I just enjoy a few drinks with friends or at the bar. You know, to loosen up. I'm not hiding half empty bottles of gin from the wife, if you know what I mean.."
Ethan could easily see where her life had taken it's first turn down the harrowing road of addiction. She had spent one too many nights partying, trying to fit in, trying to parlay her fading youth and good looks into something more meaningful than some cheap-hotel room romance. The bar scene he imagined her inhabiting practically dripped with the easy confidence of Bloody Mary's and Margaritas.
"It's like my mother told me when I was telling her about these meetings. Rissa, she says, you hold down a job at the cafe, you pay your bills on time, you have good things left ahead of you. You aren't an alcoholic, you were just born thirsty."
During the subdued round of polite laughter, Ethan got up from his seat and headed outside reaching for the pack of cigarettes in the front pocket of his wrinkled dress shirt. He didn't actually smoke. The cigarettes were his excuse to leave the meetings whenever the meeting got to intense or in this case annoying.
Picking up his trechcoat from it's place amid the hooks by the door Ethan made his way out the gymnasium, down the hall and into the brisk night air. After a few moments of simply leaning against the side of the building, he made a decision.
He needed a drink.
Just before he could turn and make his way down the street away from the tales of life washed down the drain, drop by drop from the neck of a liquor bottle, the door opened behind him.
"Hey, can I get a light?" her nasal Brooklyn voice, even more grating in the still October air.
He considered for a moment, then turning fished a battered Zippo from the inside pocket of his coat with pale slender fingers. Reaching out, Ethan flipped the lighter open and struck the wheel. As she twisted to place the end of the cigarette near the flame, Ethan was once again struck by just how attractive she really was.
"Thanks" she said as she inhaled deeply, smiling as the smoke drifted from her mouth in ribbons as she exhaled.
"Don't mention it." Ethan replied with a smile. "I was thinking about heading downtown for a drink. Would you like to join me?"
"You must be joking." she replied incredulously. We just walked out of an A.A. meeting, and you're asking me if I want to go grab a drink?"
He could help but notice her smile, the rest was child's play.
"Sure. Why not? It's not like either one of us are "real" alcoholics. It's been almost nine months since I've been in the bottle. One drink with a pretty lady won't hurt me." he replied watching her eyes dart from his face to the cigarette between her fingers.
"I'll tell you what, if you change your mind we'll just have a cup of coffee and talk. I'll leave it to you." he offered sensing she was close to rejecting his offer.
"That's a bargain I can handle. Let's get going, it's getting cold out here." she said with a wan smile as she pulled her coat closed.
An hour later Ethan steeped out of the alley behind the bar alone, wiping a telltale smear of crimson from the corner of his mouth.
"Guess you weren't the only one born thirsty were you?" he chuckled to himself as he ran his tounge over first one incisor, then the other.
Smile if you're stupid,
laugh if you understand.