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Shea is quiet.
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[Ongoing story of two brothers. Here James is going in to see his rehab mentor, having not been following the rules to stay in contact. Shea is his new girlfriend.]

Shea pulls in front of my apartment. The silence in the car feels physical, heavy on my chest. I have no way out of this.

“Look, I’ll explain later. I just can’t…”

“Merrill, we just spent the night together. And all of a sudden you’re somebody who I don’t know. You’ve been hiding something or what?”

“Like I said, please trust me that I’ll tell you later. I promise. Right now I have to go. Please trust me.” I get out of the car without her looking at me or saying a word. I have to make it to the clinic and I’m already late. I climb the stairs to my place as her car drives away. Now I’ve got to rush around and make sure I look half way okay for my guy.

I can’t look at my eyes in the mirror, lying eyes. I comb my hair, put on a clean shirt, stand up as tall as I can and walk. Outside the clinic I slow down, not wanting to enter. This is not like before when I wanted to be inside here. I never actually wanted to be inside but I knew those people could help me. They are my people, the other guys, and the leaders, they said they were helping us. Pushing us hard. Pushing us to be honest. And now I’m opening the door…I haven’t decided.

I don’t want to stop with Shea. I can do this. I can be with her and keep things together. I’ve seen other guys do this. Some guys are married. Kids. They’re okay, or maybe I haven’t heard about them. Guys do disappear from our original group. For privacy they say, we don’t ask.

I’m not going to be one who disappears. But I’m not going to really tell about Shea. I can…I don’t know.
I open the door and the icy air hits me and I have to stop for a second to adjust.

“Merrill, nice to see you. I know he’s waiting for you. I’ll let him know.” The woman who sits at the front desk is like someone’s mother. She smiles at us. She never lets on if she knows about us. How could she not at least figure out who’s who. Like I’m not usually coming in anymore, so she’s had to figure out that something’s up. But her soft face says nothing about it.

“Your turn. You can just open the door, regular room down on the left.” She smiles, buzzes the door. “Nice to see you, Merrill.” I walk toward the firing squad.

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