row, close to the door.
Jamie turned. A man, relatively young, stood behind her chair.
“I’m Leon. I’m the group moderator. You’re new here, right?”
“Yeah. Hi. I’m Jamie.” She extended her hand. Leon grabbed it in both of his own and Jamie couldn’t help but notice them shaking a little. She looked a little closer and wondered how old he was. He had a full head of black hair and a young man's physique, but his skin looked old. Not old—prematurely aged. Sagged, but not wrinkled. She looked away.
“Welcome. I hope you find what you’re looking for here. And if you have any questions, please feel free to ask any of us, okay?”
More than a few of the room's occupants were missing teeth or had facial scars. Everyone looked dulled, somehow, like some internal light inside them had dimmed. She couldn’t imagine herself asking these people to give her more than they had already given up. What had they been through? Had they killed someone? Gone to jail?
“Um, Leon?” She pulled the folded court document out of her back pocket. “I have this paper here, and I guess I have to get it signed?
He took it and looked it over. “Oh yeah. We sign these at the end of the meeting. Just come bring it to me when we are done, okay?”
“Sure. yeah. I just wondered. I was wondering about staying here for the meeting.”
Leon raised his eyebrows but let her continue. People around them pretended not to listen.
“I just feel a little disrespectful being here, you know.”
“You don’t want to be here.”
"No, no. That's not it. I mean, the court said I have to be here, I don't have a problem with that at all. I just feel, well, I don't think I need AA. I just don't want to be like a tourist or anything. To other people's problems. You know? Does that make sense."
“You think you don’t belong here?”
“Right. Exactly. I mean, I messed up, I know that. But, I just feel bad. I mean, I can control my drinking. It was just a mess up. You know?”
“Can I ask, what’d they pop you for?” he asked.
“It was nothing. Really. I mean it was like a really bad speeding ticket,” Jamie said.
“Yeah, I had one of those. Worst speeding ticket of my whole life.”
She smiled at him. He still held the paper in his hand. He leaned in.
“Tell you what. I’ll sign it. After the meeting.”
“You said Jamie, right? Jamie, I’m not going to go against the court’s orders for you.”
She looked around. Everyone was staring. No one held any pretense now.