Tenth Anniversary

The whole family shows up. The daughter with the curls, the son in the sweatpants, the wife with the thin hair and tired eyes, and his sister because she’s in town. They’re all there. The room smells like coffee and the air is thick and warm with a kind of love only those in the room can know and feel.

He was on the phone with his brother a few hours ago. His brother said he wishes he could be there but something about work and the commute and he’s sorry. He tells the brother it’s okay and that he appreciates the phone call. “I’ll talk to you soon.”

It’s death that always brings people together. It’s not always the funeral kind of death, though. It could be the death of a place brought on by a hurricane, tornado, or maybe more simply just the death of what used to be. The death of one chapter. And maybe that isn’t such a bad thing. In a lot of cases, or rather, in the case of all these people in the room, the death of that chapter is why they are all still alive. And so they come here everyday because they know how easy it is for history to repeat itself and how so many people redo all the chapters in their lives they never let die.

It starts with a reading of the rules, the steps, and the prayers. The leader talks about her day and whatever small epiphany she had after spilling coffee in the car on the way to see her father in the hospital. People nod their heads and laugh an appreciative laugh and by the time the speaker is introduced everyone is suffocating in the air of warm, coffee love.

His wife squeezes his hand and kisses his cheek. The kids sway back and forth in their seats, their feet dangling. The sister has tears in her eyes because she was there that night sitting up with their mom waiting for him to come home when the phone rang and it was the cops. They said, “lucky to be alive.” And she said, “I’m so tired of this.”

And then it was detox and rehab and he stands up. Everyone claps for him. His cheeks are red because crowds make him nervous. He places himself behind the podium. The clapping echoes between his ears. He looks at his kids and then his wife. He looks at the sorry bunch of teenagers standing awkwardly in the back visiting from rehab. He looks at his sponsor. He touches his tie and thinks for a second about his job. He coughs a cough that reminds a person of rusting pipes and then he starts to talk.

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