Outside looking in
Guess that is where I have always been
Halfway between here and there
Chancing life without a spare
A bargain basement show pony from the Fair
Odd, all these years, up and around these parts, I never noticed the church. I had heard there was a food pantry. I had inquired about the ‘free’ meals. I came very close to needing the services given out to the needy. Who knows, I may still need them, again, at some point.
I say,’odd’ because the Unitarian church happens to be the place to be. That is if you are in need of needs.
After having a few years of sobriety under my belt.; after giving up on the idea that blackouts are a necessary evil if I wish to live; after all the mistakes and mistaken identities, church basements continue to amaze me. Who would have known that all these quiet little buildings with their religious icons, held so much good stuff below the surface. The rooms are usually the same. Square and structurally, not sound. Past that, every church basement offers its own unique twist on the after life of an addict. Some have sayings like,”easy does it” and ” one day a time” all over the walls. Others are filled with smoke and Dunkin Donuts coffee cups and farmers that appear dead, until you poke them or ask them to pass the bucket.
Tonight, there would be no open meeting of “As Bill Sees It.” That is a meeting I didn’t even realize existed until I found the church schedule on the bathroom wall. Tonight is ‘Take the punch out of your lines’ anger management class.
The stairs leading to the basement, in any church, however, are all the same. They remind me of what the catacombs under the Pope’s house in Rome would look like- dark, skinny and scarey! The only well- lit item I could see had been the whiter- than- white hand that came out of nowhere to shake my hand.
“Hi, you must be, Stella. My name is Instructor Poe. Let me tell you how I know that your name is Stella. Everyone else is here! First rule of my class, Ms. Dewey- punctuality! Nothing angers me more than a person who thinks so highly of him or herself by wasting other’s time by being late!”
For fuck sake! I hadn’t even entered into the den of tranquility and the asshole had marked me as the class ass! And, what had been with the Instructor Poe? Near as I could tell, Mr. Poe had been a drop- out part time teacher from the nearest community college!
“Well, it just couldn’t be helped. I had been aiding a three legged dog across the street and you know how long that can take!” had been my retort.
The next twenty-six weeks would be 6 months of trying to not be angry when I really am in living Hell.
As I took my metal seat and glanced about the room, it occurred to me that my town must be a very angry town. Twelve of the most despicable and undesirable persons one will ever meet sat around me .It seemed much like knights of the round table. Less knights, more psychos. Less round table, more like overly used desks from the nineteen-seventies. The kind of desk with the little metal chair attached.
There had been Al. I had met Al once. He worked up at the transfer station. Recently, he had been fined for looking at people’s private information. The kind of information found on old prescription bottles. The kind of bottles that have refills on them. Al, I guess, took the whole situation in stride by taking a shit on the mayor’s lawn.
Ruth, approximately, 150 years old. Ruth lived down at the home where I would be doing my community service. Ruth did not like string beans touching her mashed potatoes. Ruth alerted the staff to this by hitting the night shift security guard over the head with her newly purchased oxygen tank. I guess it’s true what they say, the elderly have the strength of ten men when they don’t get what they want.
For the most part, my little group angry person’s gone astray, were just everyday citizens that I had come across at one point or another.
That is, other than Kennedy, Kennedy. What a strange name for a woman. What a strange woman for an anger management group.
She sat there stoic and a step above the rest of us. Her rich bitch attitude glowed with every name brand article of clothing that she wore. North Face jacket, L.L. Bean duck boots and Gap hoodie- neon green! The more notable distinction about this woman? Her name! Kennedy Knight!
Joking, as I sat myself across from the new kid on the block. “So, is that a stage name?”
The thing with my humor? It is strictly designed for my consumption only. Kennedy had not been impressed with my sophomoric behavior. As the chairs scuffed their way into place, as the pecking order made itself without help from the ‘Instructor’, it soon became apparent that life would be very, very, very long. At least for the next six months.
Instructor Poe handed out the ‘I fucked up and now I’m stuck in this stupid class’ pamphlets. The first one had a full length picture of the human body. No fancy Latin names for body parts. No arrows pointing at private parts. Nothing but a sketched out anonymous image of an unknown human being.
The usual came along with the nondescript paper. A cheap, fill it in yourself, name tag. A list of all attendees, their names and their phone numbers. Dos and don’ts of class. And, our first writing assignment.
I wasn’t sure how I felt about the list of private information being handed out amongst Skanklin’s ‘not finest”. We had been told it was an emergency contact list. It was not to be shared with anyone outside of the room we were currently in.
The do and don’t list was fine. The needing to ‘leave personal space’ at the front door, motto, was not so cool.
Instructor Poe believes that the invasion of personal space; an overt intrusion are the cornerstones of our current society. So rather than fighting it, he believes we, as a whole, should succumb to it!
WTF? Part of the function my father used in his dysfunctional discipline had been standing over my shoulder.
“Where’s your father? Have you seen him since he got home from work?”
My typical response, “He’s right there. Over my left shoulder. How can you miss him? He’s the one with a scowl and swearing, lazy bitch!”
Instructor Poe Poe went so far as to put chalk marks on the floor. Each chair placed exactly one inch from the other.
The photocopy of the unknown naked person? One of the assignments had been to ‘picture’ the person in our family that angers us the most. We are to than take that picture and draw ourselves that angry asshole. Along with that, in our journals, we will be taking a look back. A look back into our family history.
The whole shitty situation just went from solid stool to runny poop! The lonely little peckerhead, Poe, even went so far as to sign us all up for a free trial offer with’ My Pedigree-tree’. MPP.com is an online service dedicated to telling you just how fucked you really are. They not only tell you that you have no chance of leading a normal life, they offer online newspaper clippings, birth certificates and arrest warrants, confirming that you bloodline never had a chance. Right from the moment your ancestors got off the boat from Bosnia and/or straight from the time when your great, great, great, Cherokee Uncle took a shot at Custer!
Something happens to me in times of difficulty. It feels as though my ass is on fire. Not fire from a bad case of tacos. Not the burning sensation one gets when eating sardines and pepperoni on Ritz cracker. It is more like an external tingling burning sensation. Usually it leaves me feeling like I need a oil drum filled with ice. My sobriety coach tells me time and time again:
“Fool, you’re having a fucking anxiety attack. Get to a meeting. Do you feel like drinking? Have you said the Serenity Prayer? Have you asked for help?”
Bruce Lee, funny name huh? I wonder what his parents were thinking. Anyway, Bruce believes all adult stress is directly related to not following the rules of sobriety. Maybe, maybe not.
I felt clean. In a spiritual sense. I am mindful to the others, to the best of my ability. An Alcoholics Anonymous meeting would not cure the situation. I suppose breathing would. But breathing is difficult when you are not able to breathe.
This too, shall pass. And, if not a cigarette, usually takes care of the situation. The Buddha believes that one should be mindful constantly. Mindful and aware of others. Continually respectful of how our actions and thoughts effect others.
That perhaps, the customer ‘not at your’ service representative who always refers to you as sir, has no medical coverage. And, maybe, the lack of medical coverage and poor wage has caused the young adult to upgrade and/or refurbish their grammar school eye glasses. Which would make sense because not only do they mistake your sex, they have an enormous capacity for spitting. Not an all out wadded up piece of liquid comprised of breakfast and post nasal drip. Just little drops of drool. Enough to water the customer down. Not enough to cleanse the soul of the forgotten customer. Anyway, Buddhism tells us that this little pimple head with legs and arms could easily have had a devastating morning. And, with just one wrong word from the practicing human Buddha, the Thrift Store Savant, could call it quits. He or she is now willing to take leave of this world just because you told them to.
‘Get a vasectomy and help the world!’
I am so trying this philosophy. I am really working the awareness idea. I had been doing well. I cut the sarcasm down to just jaded retorts on rare occasions. I leave the idea of getting my way, no matter what, at the cat box door. Particularly when planning a day trip to any government service agency.
There are five places of interest in Skanklin. The eat while you watch cinema, the two dollar store .
Two dollar stores are real! I like real. Let’s face it. Nothing useful is made for the cost of one single dollar. It takes at least two bucks to purchase a high quality vitamin!
Beyond the cinema and the ‘store’, there is the Gandhi-Mart and Catholic Used and Cheap thrift store, there is, Mr. B. Got. Mr. B. Got is a liquidator. If you need a magic eraser, a door stopper or a can of beer from India, the B is the place to go. Of
course, there is the other ulterior motive. There is Angel! Angel is no an angel. She is coarse like a piece of fine sandpaper. Her voice? Like a drunken sailor on leave. And, her smile tells of a life lead by lust and cookie dust! I have been in love with Angel since the day she rolled into town. Or, better put, got towed into town. Her Harley up on its pegs, looked like a jaded and broken mechanical horse. Angel, and her bike, had blown a gasket. And, until the day comes when the one only bike shop in town locates Angel’s ancient Harley and it’s blown part, the angel will remain in my heart and in Skanklin.
Glorious day! Angel provided me with not only a notebook. She provided me with the most sought after item in my world, her phone number.
I easily could have gone to the cheaper store. I most likely could have found a couple of pieces of slightly used paper within my house. But once smitten twice pushy! I jump at every opportunity I can to witness the Angel in action.
“Is that it, honey? Whatcha planning on writing?”
Words dripping with confidence and sex. I had been ridiculed by many friends. Harassed and bullied by acquaintances who knew of my crush. Every single one of them pissing in my Wheaties with,
“She ain’t no dyke!”
I have been known, back in my drinking days, to turn many a straight gal. I have also been seen running nearly naked through a few bar parking lots. Running like there would be no tomorrow from the irate husbands. All it takes is time and patience and I will get me a live Angel.
“I’d like to see your number in there, but I don’t see it. How much more for the notebook with the number in it?,” had been my reply.
Of course, Angel had smirked that knowing and self confident twitch of the lip. She took a pen from her breast pocket, nodded at me and jotted something on the inside cover of my newly purchased notebook:
“For a good time, call, Angel, 604-369-1289”
Fuck those townies. Screw all those straight and straight- laced pinheads down at Bunny’s Shave’ n Wet. I got the coveted number!
That friggin’ class. Tonight should be the night for learning about ridden hard and hung up wet women named Angel. Tonight should not be the night to stuff the mounting sexual frustration. The same frustration that tends to pent up bad thoughts. The same boxed negative feelings that, you guessed it, causes, anger.
I kissed Towanda good- night, I told Bogart he was to be in charge of the feline brood, kick started the ancient moped and headed down to the Unitarian church. Right around dusk, my town is different than any other town in the States. It glows neon and fades a dusty red in the rear-view mirror. The patrons of Skanklin stroll by holding hands and reminiscing about recent factories that have shut down. Out of nowhere, my small town is bearable and bright and something you dream about.