I went to a place lit nicely for recovering nuts.
They played ping-pong. Some of them frequented an arts lab where one might safely throw paint.
When not flailing over a table or weaving baskets signed off by Jackson Pollock at the corners, a good proportion of souls in transit chose to exorcise demons. In one rehab or another. The place, it seemed, had been hijacked by the twelve step program.
It was a haven for the stumbling. An ark of sorts.
Before rehab kicked off, they passed out bowls of soup to the assembled.
It was not for me, the rabid confessional. I sweated in my socks, hankering after an aperitif. Forewent the pea and ham for a cigarette, finally. Loitering at the wall-mounted ash cans out front with a few of the wary.
Jesus, one said. I'm not ready for this. It's too fucking full-on for my taste.
Amen. Said another.
I smoked my cigarette and said nothing at all. We had not been properly introduced, and I did not feel like making pleasantries. I had just had my head shorn. Every time I caught sight of my reflection in one glass pane or parked car I was greeted not by a penitent but the ghost of Hermann Göering. A nazi runaway on subpoenea.
Rehab's about to begin, boys. If you're interested.
The voice was kindly enough. I had seen the fellow collecting names at the door. Steering the malnourished here and there with a steely kind of reserve.
He had trouble keeping his dentures in place. We had something in common.
My legs wanted to move of their own volition in a similar way. To fashion an escape. Of course, I was not so rude as to begin to run. Not quite yet.
I had left my jacket to steam over a chair back there. A skin jumped out of.
I might as well have been standing up in my pyjamas. Drizzling in the rain.
I stubbed out my butt and went back inside to trade banalities with my escort, who, trapped in a phone call to the office, seemed blessedly remote. I smiled. Secretly glad. Withholding any evidence which might prove incriminating.
I did not make rehab. Nor have I been back since.
▼ CODEINE: LOSS LEADER from "The White Birch" Sub Pop (SP166B) (US) 1994