***Names have been changed to protect the Anomalous****
There was a pretty big group at Al-anon tonight, and I'd been hoping there wouldn't be. I got there about a half hour early, like usual, so that I can brew the coffee, set things up, and kick my feet up a while before people stroll in. Tonight when I sat back and gazed at the clock I was thankful that the meeting started in ten minutes and nobody else was there.
"Good," I thought. "Nobody will show. I'll say the serenity prayer, recite the 12 steps, give myself a hug, and go home."
I really didn't feel like talking to anybody, or even smiling at them really. It'd been a shitty day.
That was before Large Contessa strolled in, walking stick in hand. That's not her real name, that's just the name that pops in my head when I look at her - Large Contessa. She's enormous. Tall, wide like silly putty stretched across your hand, and morbidly obese. That's not a term that I'm fond of using (morbidly obese), but good Lord man, there are just no other words. She wears hiking boots, dirty brown pants, a black T-shirt and a green flannel. All that plus her wide rimmed safari hat and walking stick makes her look ready to hit the trail.
She sat across from me, was silent a moment and then said, "I didn't weed my garden all last summer."
"...No?" I asked.
"Not at all," she admitted. "The whole yard's a mess. I mean you let it go just a little while and..." She lifted her hands and waved them above her head, the gesture implying that if you let the yard go for just a few weeks it could explode.
"Yeah, I know how that is," I said.
"I got those long plants," she said. She sat back and squeezed her eyes shut, trying to think. "What are they called? Do you know what I'm talking about? The long plants with the long leaves?"
I waited for more details but she left it at that.
"No, I don't know."
Then another girl walked into the room. Her name was Pipi Longstocking, and she dropped herself into the seat next to Large Contessa.
"Hey," said Pipi. "Do you go to the zoo? Like, often?"
Large Contessa's eyes widened. "YES."
"I think I saw you by the gorillas."
"You must have, I go down there to talk to them a lot."
Pipi squealed with glee. "You talk to them? I talk to them too." Then her smile faded. "I think they're very sad."
Large Contessa gave a large nod. "I know."
There was silence. And then Large Contessa piped up.
"Some people like the orangutans," she said. "But I don't."
And while this conversation was going on I found myself thinking something that I often think at Al-anon, which is, "These are my peers. These are the same people who, when I finish sharing with the group, sometimes come to me, take my hand and say, 'I know eactly what you were talking about. We have so much in common.'" Is this ape conversation real or did they stage this just to fuck with me?
More people came in after that. Lots of people, acually, and I managed to chair the meeting without bitching about my day or losing it because life can be so unfair. I've got anger issues, man.
Looking back I realize that what I should have asked Large Contessa is how the gorilla consultation is working out for her because if it's helping AND it's cheaper than my therapist then this might be something I should look into.