I sat in my car and waited until five past the hour. Convinced the last stragglers had arrived, I sneaked through the heavy oak doors and slithered against the back wall, willing myself invisible. Normal people would have been satisfied to interview others or finish their research from the library, but not me. I wanted to experience an AA meeting personally, so my fiction could sing with authenticity. So, here I was, feigning to be a coat rack, hoping no one would notice me.
I glanced around the room. It would be almost impossible in my small town not to recognize anyone, and sure enough, they were there. Not that I minded that they were there, mind you, but that they would know I was there. The sophisticated blue-haired lady was my daughter’s playmate’s grandmother. And the lady in red looked familiar as well—my mind scanned for where I’d seen her —my father’s business associate, perhaps? And Mr. Bogreens, the custodian at my church.
I should have left before anyone saw me, stepped back through the door as silently as I’d entered. I slid my right foot toward the exit, then moved my left to catch up. I concentrated on getting out, on escaping from this poorly planned escapade.
“Door prize?” A man with soft walnut eyes pressed an index card into my hand.
“No, thanks,” I whispered.
“The first one’s free,” he said.
“No. I’m not . . .”
“Everyone enters the door prize,” he said, his voice raising.
Fearing a commotion, I scribbled my name and mumbled my thanks. The rest of the group had formed a circle, so I relaxed in my obscure spot by the door. I was safe. I concentrated on capturing all the details I needed to make my fiction real. The PA system must have been a donation from the old high school stadium, as it blasted through the ceiling panels, giving each speaker’s voice the resonance of God’s very own. I also noted the bare light bulb dangling from a dusty wire, and figured I could make an analogy from it. I listened to the tone of the speaker’s voice, and watched his mannerisms as he spoke of his disease and recovery. I waited for the words I expected, “Hi, my name is Bob, and I’m an alcoholic…” And soon, sooner than I’d expected, the meeting adjourned with the recitation of the Serenity Prayer.
I’d survived. I buttoned my jacket and slid toward the door. Hopefully, no one had spotted me.
Someone tapped the mic twice, then spoke so loudly her words hung on the ceiling, and I had to wait for them to trickle down before I could make them out. “Sandy Tritt! Sandy Tritt!” The neon words fell from above, over and over, beating me down.
“You Sandy?” an elderly man said, pointing his arthritic finger at me.
I wanted to deny it, but by this time the buzzing crowd swarmed around me, and I understood how Jesus Christ felt when the crowd screamed, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
“You Sandy?” a young woman demanded.
I nodded, swearing to myself and to God above that I’d never, ever again infiltrate sacred meetings in the name of research.
The kind-looking man I remembered from earlier came to me. “Congratulations,” he said. “You won the door prize.”
“I—I don’t want it,” I whispered, eying my escape.
A woman with evil eyebrows thrust a microphone in my face. “Speech!”
I was caught. I was cornered. I took a deep breath, leaned into the mic, and made my confession. “Hi. My name is Sandy, and I’m…” I looked at the now silent crowd hanging onto my every word and realized that the man in back looked way too much like one of my daughter’s teachers, and undoubtedly the press was there and my picture would be splattered across the front page of Sunday’s paper. My charade was over. There was nothing left for me to do, so I hung my head and admitted my addiction. “And I’m a writer.”
© 1995 Sandy Tritt. All rights reserved. www.InspirationForWriters.com
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