GuysterRules (guysterrules) wrote,

Staring at a joyless sunset

The white room, with its single framed print of a standard sunset, started to fill up at the last minute, just before the door was closing. Slump-shouldered strangers took the first available seat, their eyes following their own feet. None of us were there by choice. Of the twenty-nine people in the room, I was the only one there that didn’t have a court mandate to attend. There was only one person present who hadn’t been arrested for drunk driving, who doesn't drink liquor, or who wasn't even formally arrested at all—me.

It was my third meeting last night; each one proving that there is an increment of time known to man that is slower than Stairmaster-time. In front of the class was a large chart on a slanted board detailing each category of drugs. Written in the pre-Nancy Reagan era of drug education, it had the common slang names for marijuana (Mary Jane, Acapulco Gold, reefer), heroin (Big H, Harry, honey), and Quaaludes (downers, Dreamland, Qs). It also had helpful information on huffing gasoline, as well as the dangers of inhaling ether. I read it carefully as I was there to learn, as well as show the court I was willing to learn.

Our teacher is a spindly man with a shock of gray hair, a stuttering gate to his speech, and a gift for slowing the earth’s orbit. His facts are wrong, sometimes so absurd that I want to wave my hand in the air, as an over-achieving student is prone to do, and engage him in a debate. I don’t. I don’t want to be any more responsible for boring the surly throng than he is.

Manuel, muscular sarcasm wrapped in tribal tattoos and a tank top that reads In Rock We Trust, sat next to me last night fidgeting the entire two hours. He’s the most vocal in the class--by that I mean he’s the only one who actually speaks a single word besides our elderly professor. Manuel is prone to blurt out a rebuttal or a snickered comment to our teacher, throwing the room into momentary disorder. One girl, whose hair is so tightly bunned up that she looks like a synchronized swimmer in search of her nose plugs, laughs at every one of Manuel’s jokes, then quickly looks to her lap.

Each night has been the same; a dull-witted lecture followed by a half hour of a video that makes me long for the cinema of health class. Last night, the eighty-pound Asian girl with a permanent pout was flapping her legs apart and together in rapid butterfly motions, causing the heavy-set boy sitting next to her to stir in his chair. Three minutes into the video, she rolled her eyes, proclaiming loudly that we’d already seen this one.

“I must’ve forgotten.” The teacher stumbled up from his chair, looking at the remote control for the VCR as if he were the monkey looking at the monolith, and stopped the tape just as the star of the video was opining that alcohol impairs the ability to drive. Luckily, he had back up, a thirty-year old tape of a priest lecturing an audience on the impact of alcohol in the family unit.

I absolutely confess to doing something incredibly cavalier, stupid, illegal. It put my most important asset at risk—-my career. I’m not in the class by accident. I’m there at the suggestion of my attorney, a chit he can cash in with the DA. It’s a smart move, to be sure, and one that will go a long way in court. After kicking two major drug habits in my life, ones that nearly killed me, I now find myself with several smaller ones: two milligrams of Klonopin a night, a few puffs of pot, less than a half a pack of cigarettes a day, a middle-of-the-night cookie, and twenty milligrams of Lipitor. Have I learned anything from the weekly class I attend?

No. Honestly, I don’t consider the rituals I maintain as addictions. I call them maintenance.

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