I pulled into the parking lot of the church, trying to stifle the tickle of a feeling that I wasn’t at the right place. There were only two other cars in the parking lot and they were empty. Granted, I was early — 15 minutes early. I have a habit of getting places early when I am nervous — not sure why.
I park and turn off the truck, then pull my kindle out of the beat-up laptop bag sitting on the passenger seat. Turning it on, I try to get an wifi signal, hoping to go online and check the website again to make sure I was at the right place. Finding no wifi, I switch off my kindle and replace back in my bag.
Wiping my sweaty palms on my jeans, I grab the coffee I bought on the way and get out of the truck. Still no one else showed up and I was now only 10 minutes early. I figured someone would be here by now to setup, maybe it was one of the people that owned one of the two cars already in the lot.
Now came the dilemma of which door to go in. I walk up to the main door and pull on it, hoping it would be open. Instead, it was locked and my yanking on it causes a loud thunk-a-thunk, which I was sure echoed through the building, alerting anyone inside that someone was at the wrong door. It made me feel sheepish and odd.
A shoveled concrete path wound around the side of the building, lined by low evergreens that were just peeking out of the snow pack. Taking a sip of my coffee, I follow the path around the building and saw another door that appears to lead of set of steps going up or down. As I approach this door, headlights sweep across the building as a car pulls into the lot behind me.
Pulling on the door, it opens easier than I expect and smacks into the brick wall to my right, causing me to jump at the sound. Bracing the door from slamming back on me, I step into the warmth of the church and stand on a landed — up or down?
Unable to decide I look at the postings on a bulletin board on the downward-stairs side wall of the landing.
Reading such flyers as:
Fourth Grade Christmas Pageant
Food and Clothing Drive
Place items in box in the Narthex
Finishing my procrastination, a man, probably in his late 40s — early 50s — comes around the corner outside, and my pulse raced and my heart creeps into my throat, and my hands and pits sweat. This is real — I am really here and doing this.
The man opens the door and steps inside, nods to me and heads downstairs. He doesn’t look like an alcoholic – whatever an alcoholic looks like, it’s not him. I stay on the landing, not wanting to feel like I am following a complete stranger into the basement of a random church. It just doesn’t feel right to follow him.
I go up the stairs and look around, the area is wide open and there’s a statue of some saint or something in the middle of the room. A box covered in Christmas wrapping – patterned with small trees and random presents of all colors—sits under an office window. A sign hangs on the front:
Food Drive For Heart and Home
Please donate only unopened, non-perishable items.
From Our hearts to their homes.
The box is nearly empty, expect or a can of green beans and a box of macaroni and cheese. It makes me feel sad and empty. I think about bringing something next time and putting it in there, knowing full well I won’t – this also makes me sad.
I wander back down to the landing as two people approach the door. The older of the two opens the door and smiles at me. I smile and nod back.
“Hi, how are you? You a member of your exclusive club,” the first guy in the door asks.
“I’m fine, you? I am not sure if I am part of your club, unless you mean AA,” I ask feeling trepidation.
“Doing great, and yup, welcome to our exclusive club of drunks and addicts,” he says chuckling, the sarcasm nearly dripping from him.
“Yes, then I am looking to be part your club,” I say somewhat relieved, “I am new,” the nervousness evident in my voice.
“Well, welcome, it’s good group of folks here, you’re in the right place. I’m John,” he says offering his hand, “and this is Nick,” he nods at the younger man beside him.
I shake John’s hand and then turn and shake Nick, “I’m Chris, thanks. I was worried I didn’t have the right place, when no one was here when I pulled in.”
John smiled, “Yeah, people tend to roll in just barely on time, or late.” He shrugs and adds, “Drunks, can’t rely on them for anything.” Nick chuckles and John laughs. I am surprised by how happy, or at least light hearted he is about the purpose of going to this meeting.
Still laughing he starts going downstairs, and I follow.
“Is this your first meeting,” Nick asks.
“I went to a couple maybe 15 years ago, but didn’t really buy it then – so yeah,” I say, a bit quickly, the anxiety forces the words out. I am sure they can hear in my voice how much I am shaking inside. Fear and apprehension has my hands shaking and I am sure my voice is too. If they heard it, they didn’t let on.