h2>Dating : The Serenity Prayer
Gerry leered through the window like a deviant window cleaner, then dragged himself in and over to a seat beside Stevie. Alan, the group leader, opened the door. He’d been sober twenty years and had the air of someone who’d climbed Everest and discovered the cure for being remotely interesting.
‘Is everyone here?’ Alan asked with his usual smile at the beginning of meetings. Hugh was missing. Another character flaw among the multitude was his lack of punctuality. ‘Looks like Hugh’s missing again. Well, we’re not waiting,’ Alan said. ‘Last time out we waited, and he didn’t show, so we’re cracking on. Any news, guys? If anyone wants to share anything, this is the place to do it.’ Alan looked at Robert, who had three almost completely silent meetings under his belt. ‘Robert, what about you?’ Hugh opened the door.
‘How’s it goan?’ he asked.
‘Prick,’ Stevie mumbled.
‘He’d have tae save the cancer cure fae a burning building just tae be a prick.’ Gerry had been waiting for a very long week to drop that one. It didn’t make him feel any more content.
‘Take a seat,’ Alan said to Hugh.
‘Saw-ree,’ Hugh said.
‘Are you ready to share?’ Alan asked Robert.
‘Alright,’ Robert said while Hugh played Candy Crush. Gerry saw Stevie staring at Hugh with the look of a man who’d seen far too much and been subjected to much more.
‘Whit?’ Hugh asked.
‘Put the phone away,’ Alan said. ‘Robert…’
‘Where should ah start?’ Robert asked.
‘What brought you here,’ Alan said. ‘There’s no judgement.’
‘And omit nothing,’ Hugh said.
‘How many times do you need to be warned, Hugh?’ Alan said. ‘Robert…’
‘Well,’ Robert said. ‘Ah was working in marketing for this betting company doing things ah didn’t believe. Ah got involved wae this woman at work, and ma fiancé found out about it. The whole thing was the biggest mistake of ma life. Then ah moved into ma own flat. Ah didn’t like being alone, so ah started drinking more and having one-night stands. The drinking became an everyday thing. It started tae affect ma work, and ma day revolved round pubs. Then ah ended up in jail one night for indecent exposure. Obviously, ah was wasted. And behaving like a moron. Apparently, ah just pulled it out, no in a sexual way; it was just out and ah walked up tae the bar wae it out. Then this bouncer pulled me up and ah just punched him. Opening ma eyes in the jail the next day was a bit of wake-up call. That’s when ah decided enough was enough. Ah really had tae sort myself out, and here ah am ah guess…ave been completely sober for two weeks now…’
‘Well done, Robert! Thank you,’ Alan said, instigating a lukewarm round of applause. Hugh kept his hands on his knees.
‘That’s it?’ Hugh asked.
‘Sorry?’ Robert said.
‘Quiet,’ Alan said to Hugh.
‘Aye, quiet,’ Gerry said. Hugh brushed them aside.
‘Pubs and flashing,’ he said. ‘Ah mean, it’s hardly rock bottom. Karen here was blowing guys for a score and necking two quid cider.’
‘Bastard,’ Karen said, shaking her head.
‘Hugh,’ Alan said at the end of his rope. ‘One more time and you’re finished.’
‘Why one more?’ Karen asked. ‘Get him out.’
‘Hear, hear,’ Stevie said.
Alan was far too nice to accept responsibility for banishing an alcoholic. If he pushed one person within a mile of the edge, never mind over it, he’d turn into a crazed insomniac. ‘Since you see fit to interrupt at every juncture, Hugh. Why don’t you offer your thoughts to the group?’
‘Fuck sake,’ Karen said.
‘Alright,’ Hugh said, sitting up full of his self-importance.
Gerry pulled out his phone and set the alarm. He watched Hugh’s lips moving and felt capable of murder, but the piercing alarm went off and saved him from prison.
‘Sorry,’ Gerry said. ‘Forgot tae turn this aff.’
‘Who the hell sets an alarm for this time?’ Hugh asked.
‘Right, turn the phone off,’ Alan said.
‘No bother,’ Gerry said.
‘Eddie,’ Alan said. ‘Continue.’
‘Well ah was drinking with Derek Soutar, the managing director of Phoenix…’ Gerry pulled the apple from his jacket pocket and slowly took a huge corner from it.
‘What the fuck are you doing?’ Hugh asked.
‘Whit?’ Gerry asked. Transparent insincerity was always a sound tactic.
‘Ave no had ma dinner yet.’
‘You’re a fuckin arsehole,’ Hugh said, standing up with his hands on his hips. Gerry got up to meet him.
‘Who you calling an arsehole?’
‘You, ya fuckin arsehole,’ Hugh said. Gerry had his excuse; he threw the apple with as much violence as he could muster, and it hit Hugh’s massive, sweaty forehead.
‘How do ye like them apples, eh?’ Gerry beamed with pride at the accuracy of his throw and shite one-liner. Karen burst out laughing while Alan stepped in front of both men.
‘Ah think apologies are in order here,’ Alan said. Gerry mockingly reached out his hand, but Hugh stormed from the room. And that was it. Gerry was the bigger man — a bigger man who just happened to use an apple as a weapon in an asinine argument. Fuck it. Job done, Gerry thought, feeling an eerie serenity for the first time in ages.