Before he opened his mouth I knew I loved him – knew I would love him for a long time. Longer than I had loved the procession of men that had marched through my basement efficiency in the months between December and November. It was the early eighties. I was in my early thirties. My sobriety was still in it’s infancy – just eleven months old. John walked into the P Street meeting and stopped for a coffee before taking a seat in the circle. I nudged the woman who was sitting next to me and whispered, “I am going to marry him.”
When he got up to refill his cup my eyes followed him. He still hadn’t spoken. I liked his brown eyes. His full beard. Long hair. Flannel shirt. He was short. Not thin. Not fat.
“My name is John and I’m an alcoholic.”
“I just moved to Washington from New Jersey to go to law school. I brought everything I own in a 1979 Datsun that’s held together with bungee cords, but I know I’m doing the right thing.”
I decided to invite him to dinner but first I needed to have him vetted by my sponsor Paul. Women are not supposed to have male sponsors but Paul was Southern. Paul was a Poet. And Paul was the only person in AA that I had anything in common with. Besides Paul was loving me until I could love myself.
“Hi. Welcome to Washington. Would you like to have coffee with Paul and me at Martin’s?” I know now that John was such a coffee lover that he would have had coffee with Richard Nixon.
“Sure. I’d like that.”
Over coffee I noticed his New Jersey accent got more pronounced when he spoke passionately about things and he was passionate about everything. He used cream and sugar. Smoked Marlboro’s.
I kicked Paul and signaled surreptitiously that he could go. He left. Smiling a sad smile.
“Would you like to come over for dinner Wednesday night? There is a show on TV I have been looking forward to. The Day After. It’s about nuclear war. It has Jason Robards in it. He’s in the program, you know.”
I was doing what I always did when I was nervous. I was talking too much. I sounded like an idiot. But he didn’t notice.
I made a peasant stew with tomatoes and sausages. Wore my prettiest dress. Made sure I had plenty of coffee. There was a moment of awkwardness when he noticed that the only piece of furniture in my efficiency was a four-poster bed. We ate on the bed. Later we made love on the bed. Slowly he moved his things into the efficiency. The Datsun was eventually towed away but John stayed.