This happened in 1999. I think about it pretty often.
Christmas Eve. One of my favorite times of all. The Winter Solstice is warm next to this event promising rebirth. Part of my world was ending, because I was getting divorced from a relationship I’d thought was going to last our lifetimes.
I’d left LA to hide out in Seattle with understanding friends, who loaned me a shoulder and a Volvo. I drove around the City I had history with, looking at Christmas lights. I drove slowly past the former Bon Marché, to look at the Star still placed on the corner of the building. It was getting late and I longed to be around people. What better than a midnight candlelight meeting of strangers, who’d gently offer companionship and empathy instead of drink? Best Idea Ever. Off I went, to find an address.
The room was somewhere up a long flight of stairs, leaving dots of light below. It felt like a tree fort. I belatedly realized it was a gay men’s meeting, but the faces radiated Welcome and let me settle in.
The meeting was the usual sanctuary, maybe a bit more reflective with the holiday surrounding us, when a man came though the door. Often, latecomers tiptoe to a chair so as not to interrupt. This man stayed just inside the entrance. And he was swaying, and he was drunk. I was across the room from him and I could smell him. He reeked not simply of booze but booze, oozing out of a person.
He started to talk. His words slurred together – and I saw myself. “There it is” I thought. “That’s exactly what I look like when I’m drunk. I’m not clever or sexy or smarter than everyone else. I’m just drunk.” I was cut to the bone on this mirror – but he wasn’t done.
“I know a lot of you have seen me like this before” he said, leaning against the doorframe. “And maybe you think, “What a loser. Why doesn’t he just give up?’ -But, how do I know, this time won’t be the last time? How do I know I’m not five minutes from the miracle – unless I keep trying?”