As I stood across the building, I watched others go in, one after the other, I counted and I knew which ones were there for the same reasons as me. They had the same demeanor, head hung, hands in pocket, slow steps, and you could almost see the anvil of guilt on thier shouders. I really shouldn’t be going for this I thought. My friends had convieniently convened and decided I had a problem. So I stood there facing the abandoned St. Michael’s Secondary school building on Bennett Str. –Hoodlum central and Lovers corner contemplating.
I really didn’t want to go but in the end peer pressure had won. I still remember the smirk on Annas face when she said “just do it, its for the best”. I wore my black ripped jeans, grey loafers and my favorite black hoodie with “LOOK AWAY” boldly inscribed on it. The O’s in “look” had been replaced with blood dripping eyes, for emphasis obviously. I had my hair in a ponytail and used my black baseball cap to keep it in place. It was my typical I do not want to be noticed outfit but it somehow managed to do the opposite. The dripping eyes, maybe?
I started walking across to the building when I noticed the lights at the Dominos pizza place were still on so I took a quick detour. The meeting was not starting till 7:00pm and it was just 6:40pm so I had ample time to burn. Moreover, I had no dinner plans so I figured why not? I had some left over pizza in the fridge, chicken supreme, not my favorite. Besides, this was a chance to get frresh pizza and a combo I wanted, so why pass it up? I walked in and the warm smell of melted cheese hit me and I smiled from chin to chin. I think it’s a real talent, one I was obviously blessed with, to be able to walk into a pizza place and immediately distinguish every smell that breezes past my nose. I could even smell the olives, green-pepper and onion from the fresh-out-of-the-oven vegetarian pizza.
I knew what I wanted, but I still did the customary menu scan and savoured the scents while I was at it. I finally placed my order for their two for one combo, A BBQ beaf and meatzza mix, extra cheese and thick crust.
It was 7:00pm by the time I finished so I walked over to the building and headed down the hallway to the gym. I planned to take the most incospicuous spot but there wasn’t going to be any hiding for me, the seats had been arranged in a circle. I did a quick scan and picked the middle seat, one that would buy me time to understand their process before I had to speak up. Assuming I was fortunate enough and it didn’t start with me. Then it began and a plump lady stood up.
“Hello my name is Tracey”.
“Hello Tracey”. They replied.
“It’s been 3 months since my last time,” she started, a slight tremble in her voice. “I’m beginning to get used to it. I don’t crave it as much and I don’t have those dreams anymore”. “You know those ones where they go bad and you still want it anyways and sometimes… sometimes you even-. “ She paused looked at the crowed and seemed to remember where she was. “I work out even more now and I’m eating a lot healthier even.”
They all smiled and applauded her, round and round the turns passed. Each story seemed almost the same, almost like they had memorised it. Suddenly it was my turn, I had seen these things in the movies, I knew my lines, but it didn’t make it any easier. Reluctantly, I got up, hands in my hoodie pocket, voice as tiny as a mouse’s, I started.
“Hello my name is Debby,” I said, “and I am addicted to pizza”.
“Hello Debby, welcome”
The moderator, a man named Ken, nodded encouragingly with a smile, urging me to say more. So I did.
“Well my friends think I have a problem, which is why I’m here. See, I enjoy a good pizza.” I couldn’t help licking my lips at the memory of the smell of the vegetarian pizza. “I, enjoy it a lot”
I noticed a few heads nodding and I knew they understood my words. They were Kin. They really knew.
“Okay a bit too often.” I continued. “but, what’s so wrong with that?. Like, it never disappoints, right? It’s there when things arent so great. The good and the bad times, it’s there. I guess im a bit in love with it. So maybe, that makes me an addict. Anyways, yeah, that’s it.”
Peter stood up and smiled at me as he gestured at my chair.
“Hello I’m Ken, thank you all for sharing your stories. I commend you all for making an effort to break out of your addiction. This is the first step, it takes just one, then another and another till you’re done. It took me a while, but I’m happy to say I’ve been pizza free for 2 years now.” A few gasps and awes washed through the room as he said that. “Two years?” I thought. Why would anyone do that? “Seven rules” he said raising his hands and spreading seven fingers. “First you have to admit you have a problem”. His smile hardened and he eyeballed me. I shrugged. He mentioned each rule, bringing each finger down as he elaborated on them. I was certain he felt like a holy man speaking to his congregation. A priest, who resisted the daily temptation of taking that forbidden bite for two years. He made some good points though, I must admit. After the 4th reason I was convinced I had a problem I had been sucked into the crustless side. The one where, he was obviously King.
Finally the talk came to an end. I snuck out immediately. I definitely wasn’t going to have to go through the “special introduction” for first timers. When I was safely out, I walked slowly pondering on Kens’ words and considering all the changes I had to make in my life. I glanced at my watch, noticed that it was 8:00pm and picked up my pace. A friendly smile greeted me when I opened the door.
“Your pizza is ready, miss”.
“Thank you”. I smiled, opened the box and breathed in deep. Mmmm, cheese. I nodded my head and thought, Netflix and chill.