Jan 6, 2011

Support Group

Alex stood just inside the door of the church basement. He tried to make his feet walk forward, but it was all he could do to keep from turning around and walking out.

There were women seated in a circle on folding chairs. The expressions on their faces were a mixture of fear and suspicion. Alex couldn’t really blame them. He was 6’4” and wearing a trench coat and combat boots.

I don’t belong here, he thought, but he found that he could not force his feet to move on way or the other.  Alex felt panic rising in his chest, and he felt intensely alone.

“Why don’t you have a seat over here, sweetie?” said a middle aged female voice with a smoker’s rasp.
Alex looked up to find the source of the voice. A woman with permed red hair and a colorful blouse patted the empty seat next to her.

He managed to walk to the empty seat, head down, deliberately avoiding any other faces. Sitting down carefully, he tried not to jar his broken ribs. The woman could now see the bruises on his face, which were only partially obscured by his long, dark hair.

The red headed woman gently touched his forearm and said, “You want some coffee hun?”

Alex nodded, keeping his eyes on the ground. Some of the women still eyed him suspiciously, and he overheard snatches of whispered conversation. He caught the phrase “What is he doing here?” a couple times, and also heard “police” mentioned, but he didn’t move from the chair.

“Here you go, hun,” said the red headed woman, placing a Styrofoam cup filled with coffee in his hands.

“My name’s Janet,” she said.

“Alex,” he said, “My name is Alex.”

He didn’t plan on saying much, but then the group leader asked him if he wanted to introduce himself.

“He’s not my boyfriend,” said Alex, “I mean, it’s not like we go to dinner and movies  together. We just meet up sometimes. I’ve never met any of his friends, and he always tells me that he’s not gay.”

The words kept tumbling out.

“I don’t know why I don’t fight back. I guess I feel like I must deserve it, but I never know what’s going to set him off. This isn’t the first time he’s put me in the hospital, but this time, when I got home, my dog was dead.”

His voice started to tremble, so he stopped for a moment.

“I came home, and my dog had a gunshot wound in his chest. He must have bled to death, alone. I didn’t think he knew where I lived, but I know it was him.”

There were murmurs of sympathy from the group as he talked and fewer suspicious looks.


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