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[Ongoing story of two brothers. Here, Merrill, the one trying to be clean and sober.]

After some time practicing a kind of meditation whose name I forget, Pastor Bob wakes us up and we open our eyes. Everyone looks different. I squeeze my eyes open and shut a few times. He asks for any comments because these people have been coming to this group and have some comparisons to make. I don’t. I am quiet and am relieved when we wrap it up. Come next week, practice this if it feels good, etc. I get it.

I stand up and start to flee when I hear the pastor call my name. He waves me to him. “Merrill, how’d you like to get a bite?”

My heart goes into pumping overdrive. I don’t want to eat with him or anyone. But he’s been so nice that I say yes and hate myself for saying yes. I’m pretty sure that is what got me to where I am. Saying yes when I should have been saying no. But I watch myself say yes and help him close up and say goodbye to everyone. We walk a few blocks to a taco shop that I’d never noticed. The bright lights and music and people ordering and visiting and carrying on mean we don’t have to talk right away. But people leave and the place quiets down.

We’re hunched over our tacos which are good. I often forget to eat which is bad and when I do, I am too hungry to slow down. I’m sure that’s bad.

“How’d you like the session? You’ve done meditation before, right?”

I nod about that. “I liked it. Different doing it in a group. Everyone looked so peaceful after that.”

“And you, how about you?”

I don’t really like talking about myself, one-on-one like this. “Good. I was good. Different.” Tonight we were following the space between the breath. Real or not, it kept my mind quiet trying. Then I feel weird. Why is this guy spending this time with me. I need to leave and call my guy. This man is not my guy.

“You will come again, right?”

Pressure. I nod and pretend to be very busy with my taco. I was really hoping my relationship with that church was hearing those flapping angel wings when I entered through the big doors and being able to sit in the back and let the believing rub off on me. I don’t want to get too close to the truth of the place, or Pastor Bob.

He must get what’s happening inside me and changes the subject to the weather, monsoon season coming, always something to say about that. Will it be too much or too little this year. Are the streets fixed from last years flooding. That sort of thing.

Back out into the dark and warm night, I walk home as fast as I can.


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