“Hi, my name is Alex and I think I’m addicted to Xanax.”
Hi, Alex. The group chants droningly back towards me. It’s December and after the mishap on Thanksgiving and my mother said I wasn’t allowed home unless I figured out a way to get myself some sort of help. Narcotics Anonymous is some sort of help. Or at least it’s a start. I’m not ready to share that story with the group. I’m not ready to share any story with the group actually so I just fumble for a second before sitting back down.
I look up from my chair, once. Of the six other people in this group, four look homeless. At least they are worse off than me; that’s always reassuring. One of them stares behind me at my leather coat draped over the chair. Two more stare at the black and brown purse slouched in front of the girl across from me. Her hair is bleached and stiff. I’ve only seen her eyes three times even though we’ve both been to seven meetings in the past three weeks. She’s always wearing sunglasses that cover half of her face so all I can see are her bright red lips. This is Kelsey.
She never shares any stories at group either. I actually think she might sleep through half the sessions. That could be why she wears the sunglasses. I’ve noticed her on the train going home from group a couple of times but never talk to her, not until this Monday.
“Why do you always take the train back to Brooklyn after group?”
“Excuse me,” I say, looking up from my phone to see who has been observing my train routine so closely. Kelsey is standing in front of me. She sits down and repeats the question.
“How…and why, do you know where I take the train?”
“Because I live in Brooklyn, too, about one stop down from you I think”
“I don’t know why you know that, but I think you just answered your own question then,” I say.
“How,” she says, looking amused at my slight sign of both annoyance and confusion.
“Because I live there.”
“Why don’t you go to group there then?”
Because they are smaller in Hoboken, I don’t know, why do you go if you live one stop away from me?”
“Because I used to live in Hoboken and I like the ride, it’s a little break where I can just do nothing but sit,” Kelsey says as she stands up seeing the train approaching. She walks down a few paces from me and enters the train. I don’t know why I follow her but I sit two rows behind her so I can watch her, still confused as to what extent she has been watching me. She waits three stops and turns around to face me.
“Want to come over,” she asks.
“No,” I say, not even meaning to reject her so quickly. She isn’t fazed though.
“Because I don’t even really know you.”
“Yeah, you do, I’m Kelsey from group and I’m a recovering narcotics addict, so you probably know more about me than most of my friends even do.”
I have work at 9:30 a.m. and by the time I get home I’m usually exhausted. If she lives one stop away though, she might be closer to the store than me anyways. I don’t know why I’m making excuses to hang out with this girl or why I’m assuming that I’ll stay over night at her place? Before I could answer my own questions though, I answered her’s, “yeah, sure.”
I immediately don’t know why I said that, but I’m not overly upset about it either.
“Awesome,” she says, turning to face the front again.
The third time I go to Kelsey’s after group I sleep with her. She sits with me on the train home and invites me over like she has the other two nights. She doesn’t say anything on the train because she saves her questions for pillow talking.
She props her head up on one hand and lies on her side facing me.
“So, what happened on Thanksgiving?”
I turn to face her. Her red lipstick hasn’t wandered across her face at all. It is still perfectly placed on her pursed lips, which always amazes me; I forgot about her question for a second while just staring at them.
“Nothing, it was just typical stupid shit, you know?”
“Nope, its something, that’s why you never want to talk about it in group.”
“You never say anything in group, Kelsey, not a single fucking word.”
“Yeah, but I’m different and I asked you first so what happened.”
She’s so casual about it, as if she is asking “what are you doing this weekend.” I like that, but I still didn’t want to tell her. I didn’t want to tell her that Thanksgiving was the first time I hadn’t been able to get Xanax for two years and was experiencing withdrawals so bad that I had a mental breakdown. I didn’t want to tell her that I punched my Uncle Leo in the face and broke his nose when he found me ransacking the medicine cabinet at my parent’s house. I didn’t want to tell her that I proceeded to fall in an attempt to punch my father in the face who charged at me after I had punched my Uncle Leo. I didn’t want to tell her that thanksgiving is when I decided to tell my mother I was dropping out of school right after I found her purse and stole three hundred dollars in cash and one of her credit cards from it. I didn’t want to tell her any of that. I did though. I tell her everything and she just looks at me with her big, green eyes and then smiles a little.
“What, its not funny, its fucked and it was stupid and it was a pretty big ordeal in my house.”
“It is a little funny, and a little dramatic, and a little cliché, don’t you think, so that’s why it’s a little funny,” she says still smiling.
“Fine, it is, it’s very funny and dramatic and stupid, whatever, why are you in group?”
“Nope, too tired, maybe later,” she says and she rolls over to face the wall and falls asleep.
It’s only been one week since we’ve slept together after group, but I think bringing Kelsey over for Christmas dinner was actually a good idea. I haven’t brought a girl home since junior prom four years ago and no one will make me talk about Thanksgiving if they think I have a guest to impress.
She’s in a loose black dress and an oversized green cardigan. I’ve never seen her without a sweater of some sort. This is probably the most color I’ve seen her wear though. Kelsey’s wardrobe consisted of black, white, tan, and the occasional red or maroon. I’m surprised she even has anything green actually.
“You look nice,” I say when I answer the door.
“You’re wearing red?”
“Yeah, I’m embracing Christmas and thought it’d be nice if I matched your lipstick,” I say, looking down at my red button up. This is probably the most color she’s seen me wear, too. My closet’s composed as the same colors as Kelsey’s I guess. I always make a point to wear some sort of Christmas color back to Christmas in Connecticut though otherwise my mother will make jokes about how the city has made her son some freaky fucking goth boy as reflected by my all black attire. This obnoxious ragging lasts about 45 minutes, usually after her second gin and tonic when she thinks she’s much funnier than she is. She identifies as a borderline alcoholic, like that’s a good joke or something. Hypocrisy is clearly a huge problem in this family.
“Kelsey, we’ve heard so much about you, it’s so great to finally meet you, and you are just so pretty, just as pretty as Alex described over the phone,” my mother says, shaking Kelsey’s hand. She says some variation of this to everyone she meets even though for all she knew Kelsey could have been a fucking goldfish. I don’t like to go into specifics because it just provides more potential fuel to her fire of terrible and usually inappropriate “jokes.” All I had ever told her was, “I have a new friend.” Kelsey knows this though so she just smiles at me after my mother says it.
I don’t need to talk much at Christmas dinner. My mother picks Kelsey’s brain, which I like since Kelsey almost always seems to be the one asking me all the questions. She asks her the basics: where she’s from, where she lives now, if she’s in school, if she works; then, the question finally comes that I’m waiting for.
“So, Kelsey, how did you and Alex meet?”
“At Narcotics Anonymous.”
I don’t know why I am surprised by how quickly and confidently Kelsey answers. Her nonchalant approach to conventionally uncomfortable situations is never really shaken and I think this might even be my favorite thing about her. Everyone looks around and murmurs oh or interesting uncomfortably, except for my mother who springs on the opportunity to bring up my Thanksgiving story.
“Ooooh, so you’ve heard about Alex and his inappropriate outbreak on Thanksgiving,” my mother blurts out, on her fourth or fifth gin and tonic by now.
“Yeah, just the other day actually,” she says, looking over at me with a reassuring smile, a smile that I found comfort in immediately, and I still don’t know how she could get me with the slightest look.
“So, what are you going to these meetings for Kels,” my Uncle Leo asks. My mother immediately motions to him that that’s enough. She is the only one allowed to make the inappropriate statements and ask the inappropriate questions at this table.
“Kelsey, you don’t have to answer that,” my mother says.
“Oh no it’s fine,” Kelsey says. I lift my eyes from the table and lock them onto Kelsey.
“I’d been prescribed a lot of medicine for a while and about six months ago I took a lot of it, too much of it, actually all of it, in hopes of killing myself, but instead I just got really sick and then my roommate came home and found me so clearly I was unsuccessful, so it’s court ordered, along with therapy, but I’d say I’m doing much better now.”
She continues eating the potatoes on her plate and everyone else looks down to the table to avoid eye contact, except for me.
Vincent Walden is an aspiring student Graphic Designer and Illustrator. He is always looking to work and learn, to progress through inspiration and to create beautiful things. His website is vincentwalden.com.