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Finding Religion
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[Ongoing story. Using the prompt to brainstorm on missing parts. Merrill, the addict, here.]

Walt leads the group today. This old guy isn’t one of the regular counselors, like educated to be one and paid to be one, but he’s like a superstar among us. They send him in when all of us are feeling skittish. I don’t know how they figure that out with us coming in once a week, but someone’s got an eye on us. And that someone sends in Walt which lets us know that we aren’t hiding things well.

Walt’s got a sense about each of us. He’s a big guy and looks every inch of what’s happened to him in life. Nothing left unscarred on his body. Face, arms. Feet. He wears shoes that aren’t for fashion.

But Walt sits in the circle, usually he’s already there when we straggle in. I stand up taller, rise up from my slump, try to look like nothing’s going on inside. But Walt calls out to me on my first step today. “Merrill, what’s going on in there. Looking nervous.” He laughs because he makes us all nervous. Ha. Ha. I raise my chin to acknowledge him and smile. He’s not going to let me pass with that.

We all get our coffee, say our hellos and get seated on the flimsy chairs. Everyone’s sitting up tall. Nobody’s got their head covered. No, Walt makes us all take off hats and hoodies. I want to see you, he always says.

He starts in today by looking at each of us. One set of eyes at a time. We’d all agree that his eyes see inside us. Discomfort. Takes forever as we wait for him to see each of us. Then he asks us to close our eyes and he fucking prays for us. See, he’s got religion. He believes. Believes. And most of us don’t, but that’s why I keep stopping by to see the pastor in my neighborhood from time to time.

“Amen.” Doesn’t matter if we have religion or not. “Amen.”

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