Alateen is a support group for the teenage children of hopeless alcoholics.  I attended my first meeting on Monday, the Twenty-fifth of October, which Robbie, in his own way, reminded me was special.

He had written a stanza from a poem on the refrigerator:
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

That was typical of him.  But I had no idea what he meant.

"You've never heard that before?"

"Yeah, somewhere, but I can't remember where."

"It's from Henry V—you know, Shakespeare?"

"Oh.  It's fictional, you know?"

"The speech is, but the battle really happened.  It was fought at Agincourt, 561 years ago today."

He looked really pleased with himself.

"Whatever," I told him and he shook his head sadly.

Daddy honked his horn outside. 

"That's my ride," I told him and grabbed my book bag.  "Daddy's taking me this meeting."

"Dani," he asked earnestly, "did you really take drugs?"

"No," I told him, trying to explain that life was not so simple as to answer 'yes' or 'no' to a question like that.  "Not those kind."


The meeting was held in the basement of the Richard B. Foundmann Libray.  It was dark and dank, and smelled like an old locker room. 

I went in by myself and stumbled around in the gloom until somebody clicked on a light.

It was a big...person, about five foot six and weighing maybe a hundred and eighty pounds, with a soft baby-fat look and pale cropped hair of indeterminate color; I thought it might be taupe.

"He-e-e-e-y you," the person elided in a voice that gave no further clue as to the gender of its owner.    "How are you doin'?"

"Okay, I guess."

"Go-o-o-o-d," it belched.  I decided it was a boy.  "Have a seat.  Meeting's gonna start in f-i-i-i-ve minutes."

I looked around.  It was a mess; there were chairs scattered from here to breakfast, mostly upright in singles or short stacks, but a few were overturned, thrown akimbo hither and yon. 

There were boxes mixed indiscriminately amongst them, some open, some taped shut, and a liberal seeding of other junk—a music stand, a broken projector, couple of mismatched old boots.  That explained the Eau-d'locker.

Not tidy at all.

"Where," I asked him.

"In a chair, thilly."

I was doubtful. 

"Shouldn't we clean this place up a bit before the meeting?  Or at least arrange the chairs properly."

"Can if you want; I'm not gonna.  Not my job."

"How many people?"

"All of them..."

"Huh?"  I usually didn't say words like that, but his toddler mentality was getting to me.

"Oh, 'bout four, maybe six; plus one for the counselor.  Never seen more than eight."

"Ah."  I started clearing room for a circle.  "Who is the counselor?"

"Me," he pointed to himself and smiled a goofy grin.  "I'm Bobbi."

He offered his hand.

"Nice to meet you Bobby," I said.  I shook his hand and added "I'm Dani."

"It's a pleasure Danny."

"Likewise, I'm sure."

It was my mother's words coming out of my mouth.  That's supposed to be a sign of some sort.

"If you're the counselor, why isn't this your job?"

"Counselors counsel; janitors clean."

"I see."

He was one of those.

A ruddy-faced boy with curly chestnut hair stuck his face in the doorframe and said "hi Bobbi."

"Hey James," he answered.  "How's my favorite lush?"

"Sober," the boy replied, scratching at his arm.  He looked disheveled and had dark bags under his eyes.  "The old man hasn't had a drink or a smoke in days...and it's killing me."

They both laughed like what he said was hilarious, then he sucked in his bottom lip and said "one day at a time" under his breath.  He took a seat.

I sat down beside him and offered my hand.

"I'm Dani."

"Danny, huh?  You don't look like a Danny.  Don't point that think at me, I don't know where it's been."

I drew my hand back reflexively, though I'm not sure why.

"Derry," he said simply.

Bobbi took a seat opposite us and we waited for several minutes until we could hear voices in the hallway.

"...the bitch," an alto voice with an indistinct New Englander accent exclaimed.  "But I showed her.  That night while she was passed out on the couch, I took her smack and pawned her wedding ring."

A second voice laughed; not a normal laugh, but high-pitched and nervous —a kind of horsey little titter.

Their owners came into view and stepped through the doorway. 

One was tall and thin, and looked the way I imagined Yossarian to look, from Catch-22.  He had straight brown hair and a long sallow face with oversized features.

The other was short, but compact.  He had steel blue eyes with an intense stare and bad teeth.  His hair was so greasy it was hard to determine its color.  He was wearing a faded leather jacket and pair of raggedy old jeans with duct-tape around the knees.  Even the tape was mostly worn away.  I wondered how long he'd been wearing them.

"Booby," he said when he saw Bobbi and they hugged.  "How you been, sir?"

"You know, it's hanging."  They did some cool brother hand-shake thing and each took a posture that said 'I'm a bad ass and I'm only not beating the shit out of you because it smacks of effort'.

All three of them laughed and Bobbi turned to me.

"Ricky Ricky, this is Dani.  Dani, Ricky Ricky."

The filthy one nodded but couldn't even be bothered to square up to me.

"And this is Heywood."

Heywood blinked and grinned.  His Adam's apple bobbed slightly.  His eyes were glazed over.

"Nice to meet you, Heywood.  That's my last name."

"Heh.  I'm Heywood...Heywould Djiblowmey..."

"None of that," Bobbi interceded.  "I think we're all here; let's get started."

"Wait," I said, "this is all?  Aren't there any girls in this group?"

"Me," replied Bobbi and sat down.

"You?  You're a girl?"

"Not really, but I was born one.  First boy who ever touched me, I took his penis and now it's mine."

She looked at her fellows conspiratorially.

"That's my story," she added when the laughter hand died down, "and I'm sticking to it."

The meeting was dull and pointless, and full of witticisms that really weren't and fart jokes. 

First of all, it was a support group for children of Alcoholics, not teens with drug or alcohol problems.  Second, I didn't fit into either of those two categories.  I decided I didn't like it.

And then there was a religious component.  When they explained the twelve steps, I simply couldn't swallow 'admit you're powerless' or 'give yourself up to a higher power.' 

I sat in silence listening to Ricky Ricky drone on about stealing and vandalizing, him and Heywood both talking about drinking, and the lot of them whining that their lives never got any better.

It was a painful hour, and reminded me of the way time seems to expand during tedium or contracts when you're bored.  I thought of the dentist chair and how laughing gas helped pass the time; I could sure have used some right then.  Maybe that's why these boys all drank—to combat the mind-numbing narcoleptic effect of these meetings.

Finally it was over, and the group dispersed.  Bobbi caught me by the door.

"How'd you like it?"

"I'd rather have my tongue run over by a steam roller."

"That good, eh?"

"Worse.  Say, why didn't anyone give me any grief about being a little kid?"

"None of our business.  We don't ask those kind of questions here.  Do you think any of it helped?"

"I doubt it; I don't have a problem."

"Uh-huh," she said and clapped her arm around my shoulder.  "None of us do."

"Bobbi, I have a confession to make."

"Let me guess:  you're an alcoholic?"





"I'm trying to be serious."

"Why?  Never be serious; it hurts."

"Look, Bobbi, when I first met you, I thought you were a guy."

"So did my boyfriend."

"Then you said you were a girl, and now I'm confused."

"So was my girlfriend."

Now I was really confused.

"Okay, I'm gonna just blurt it out; what gives?"

"I'm a girl, but not really.  I think I'm a boy and always have.  But I like the mares and the stallions."

I must've given her a funny look, because she looked hurt.

"Don't worry, you're safe.  I don't touch little girls."

"I'm not either."

"You're not what either?"

"Not either of those things:  little or a girl."

"You might not be a girl," she said looking me up and down, "but you are definitely little."

"I mean I'm not a little kid.  I'm sixteen."

"Really?  Maybe you aren't safe."

"I'm safe," I told her.  "Trust me."

"Whatever you say, ladybug.  So you're a tranny too?"


"Transvestite, transsexual, take your pick?"

"Neither, technically," I explained.  "Trans- in this case means 'across' not 'beyond'."

"I don't follow."

"I'm not either a boy or a girl.  I'm neuter."

"I'm sorry to hear that.  Do you have a scar?"

"Don't you ever take anything seriously?"

"Not unless they hold me down and inject it into my veins."

This wasn't going anywhere.

"My Dad's waiting outside.  I gotta go.  It was nice meeting you."

"Yeah, I bet.  Say, Dani...if you're a tranny, like I am, maybe you could come to Snoopy's Coffee House tomorrow night; we have another kind of support group there...for people like us."

I saw Daddy pull up.

"Wow," I said, heading for the door.  "I didn't know that.  Where is Snoopy's?"

"In Clayton," she answered to my retreating back.  "Look it up, it's in the phonebook."


  1. k... can I vomit now? I mean I am not a fan of the twelve step program but you made it sound like an enabling and encouraging place.

    1. I Didn't intend to cast them in a positive light, though I do think it's fair to say that many of them are well-meaning, and trying to help.

      I can't help but think 12 steps are inherently fantastic (i.e. the stuff of fantasy) in their outlook of the problems their trying to solve.

      That being said, there is always a gap between theory and reality.

      Dani is not quite as receptive to it as others might be.

      It continues Monday, though possibly not in the direction you might think. Thanks for reading.

  2. "Daddy's taking me this meeting."

    "Not those kind."

    "Don't point that think at me"
    I refuse to live in fear of when my hand develops sentience of its own and tries to choke me to death.
    ... I should probably not be commenting on no sleep.
    think -> thing