His name is Johnny and he’s an alcoholic:
The scales have fallen from my eyes, princess. I feel so much better, so much more myself, the happy rock I was meant to be. The black cloud of anger that hovered over me is gone. I have energy untold. As a young man I had dreams, like anyone, none of which came true, and none of which will, but I can do something with what’s left of my life if I remember that like a magnet that grabs all the coins around it, drinking will eat my focus, my will, my mood, my marriage. My life is a good one, and I don’t need to rely on a substance to be okay. Granted, it’s nerve-racking. Thank Christ I have a shitload of painkillers and tranquilizers and muscle relaxants.
When we were teenagers, Johnny’s family seemed mysteriously functional. I didn’t really know others like it: a mom, a dad, six boys. They smiled a lot and liked each other. They went to art shows in Manhattan and watched PBS. In our town, people didn’t go to art shows in Manhattan. They went to the drive-in in East Brunswick, and nobody went to the mall. As well as I thought I knew Johnny, I didn’t notice his anger for more than a decade, and didn’t see it for myself until we were in our thirties, when he was messing around with smack and we both thought he was going to die. My relationship with his parents became a little complex when I told them if he wanted to kill himself I wouldn’t stop him. Come to think of it, they should’ve murdered me.
I feel ridiculous in AA, surrounded by cholos covered with jailhouse tattoos, hulking with huge weight room muscles, telling stories of beating their wives and doing time, one of these monsters shared a story of killing a man. In my Italian suit and tassel loafers and a pink shirt with my initials embroidered on the pocket, I’m thinking maybe I should switch to the gay group that meets at seven.
Is it me, or does an image of gay ex-cons with jailhouse tattoos spring instantly to mind? I love Johnny madly, and I wonder if he’s getting out of this one with his cufflinks.
One thing I really miss is the taste of beer. Alcohol-free beer tastes all right, but it doesn’t have the bite of real beer, which I guess is the alcohol. I suppose pouring a shot of vodka into my alcohol-free beer would be cheating.
John (no relation) appears in my cubicle doorway.
John: What do you think about the fuss over A Million Little Pieces?
Tata: I don’t. It’s not important.
John: Fiction? Non-fiction?
Tata: Memoirs depend on the memory of the writer, not to mention his delusions. They’re all fiction-y.
Tata: The weird thing is the strange behavior of the Oprah People. What are they upset about?
John: They feel betrayed. He told them a story and they believed it.
Tata: Yeah, so? Have you read the book? How is that important?
John: I haven’t read the book. I’ve read reviews and writings about it.
Tata: Are you going to read it?
John: I don’t think so. The reviews all mention a superior attitude like, If I could get out of this level of shit you other addicts should get ahold of your whiney little problems.
Tata: And the Oprah People bought it?
John: Sounds like it.
Tata: That is a problem.
Any high horse we climb onto about addiction is going to throw us. It’s too late in history to not know this, and yet Americans think same sex marriage is a greater danger to them than crystal meth. Let’s hope we sober up soon.