At 11:43 this morning, I felt an urge to go to an AA meeting, so I walked over to the church at 122nd and 7th Ave, where I thought a daily meeting was held. Turns out it’s Monday, Wednesday, Friday, as if the local drunkards are on an academic schedule, teaching classes just three days a week.
I went around the corner at 122, looking for the round AA sign on the open door, the universal welcome from your fellow alcoholics. Closed door, no sign, so I went back around the corner to ask the old black guy what the deal was. He was sitting on a metal folding chair, cane across his legs, directing people into some kind of service in the church proper, as against the basement, where AA meetings always convene.
“Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, my brother, not today.”
Oh, I thought it was every day.
“You need it to be. Will I see you tomorrow?”
Yeah, I’ll be back, I got the urge.
“All right, tomorrow, then, Happy Father’s Day.”
Thanks, I said, and walked away, but by the time I reached 123rd I wanted to know why he said that, so I turned around and walked back and said, How’d you know I’m a father?
“Well, from the way you look the girls ain’t been runnin’ away from you all these years.”
I liked that, of course, it made me feel better about everything, including my lonely decrepit self. I sat down on the sidewalk next to his folding chair.
I guess, I said. You’re a father, too, bet the girls been runnin’ after you a long time.
“I got four kids, two boys, two girls, oldest is 46, youngest is 38, two by my wife and two by my mistress, they like each other.”
Your wife and the mistress?
“No, the kids. Shit.”
Yeah, I know. You must have been pretty active there, four kids eight years apart.
“I’m 63 years old.”
Yeah, you were young when you had ‘em, what, 17-18 years old? I had mine in my 30s for god’s sake. Made me old before my time. They don’t much like me.
“Well that’s gonna change, I guarantee.”
I have to doubt it . . . and I’m not getting any younger. But you know, they’re adults now, so what am I gonna do? Tell them how to behave?
“You gotta have faith, my brother, it’s what brought you here today.”
In what? C’mon, you’re not gonna say in myself, are you?
“No, I’m a say in them. But you better love yourself—“
Yeah, I’ve been in the rooms, I know how that thing works—
“But you don’t, do you, that’s why I’m a see you tomorrow. I know it, I’m a see you tomorrow.”
That made me nervous. I hoisted myself off the sidewalk, regretting my return to what now seemed like a shrink’s office but all the while thanking my interlocutor. This is analysis interminable, I thought.
But then I thought, maybe tomorrow in the meeting I’ll cite Freud.