The 10 and 2 hand grip is the government recommended, and universally recognized symbol for safe driving, and now also, for me, safe waiting. Surviving the end of the world is a waiting game; you advance in the game– by finding creative ways to pass the time; pass enough time and you reach the end of a round. Here, victory looks like unconsciousness.
It works like this:
-Go to the gym — you just got 2 hours off the clock.
-Two AA meetings a day — that’s another 2 hours plus partial time for transportation and parking. These add up. Keep your receipts.
-Half of a work day — 4 hours
-Commuting — 2 hours
-Three healthy meals, eaten in the prettiest locations you can think of — 2 hours, 45 minutes.
-Your favorite podcast while you walk — 1 hour
You’ve done it, reached the end of a round, and you’re one day closer to being semi-okay again.
When I wasn’t sleeping or working at a desk, the truck was a natural choice for home base. It was new, clean, and a physical reminder that I appeared to be doing well. The smooth Japanese engine could take me wherever I needed to go at a moment’s notice, which is important, as surviving the end of the world requires frequent location changes, getaways, and designated salvation points — i.e., tiny sanctuary cities.
I had just gotten out of my own therapy (one hour seven minutes). My poor therapist had to somehow work with what limited control I had over my own predicament, all the while (I’m sure) trying to suppress the urge to scream “I TOLD YOU SO, YOU MORON!” at me.
Today was a big day. Justine had a therapy appointment for the first time since the world ended, and that was good news for me. I’ve been in therapy most of my adult life, and I’ve always found therapists to make conservative suggestions. I was her boyfriend for four years, she loved my son, my family, the house we shared together — surely preserving that was the conservative position.
I waited in the truck until her appointment ended. I was parked outside an AA clubhouse, just in case I got some bad news and needed to break down. At least this way I would be around my own kind, which is to say, hyper-sensitive over-reactive messes.
Ten more minutes to go.
The steering wheel had gone from a convenient place to rest my hands to a handle for holding on for dear life.
Nine minutes to go.
My best friend Reese was on vacation in Mexico with his family all week. He had terrible timing, what with me in my current condition. Reese and I were inseparable. He knew Justine and I intimately. I hadn’t called him to let him know because I didn’t want to ruin his trip. He would have hoped on a plane back to San Francisco if I had asked him to, but I figured he was going to have a full-time care-taking job when he got back. So I decided I’d let him have this vacation uninterrupted comma and let him rest up for what awaited him on the other end.
You get the point: An eternity went by (otherwise known as eight minutes), and it was now time to call Justine.
The phone rang straight to voicemail.
She was probably still leaving the building.
I called again five minutes later, and she picked up, surprised that I was so eager to speak with her.
“Hey, how did it go?” I said, assuming it had gone well for my side.
“Well,” she began, and then proceeded to recreate the dialog with her therapist. I really couldn’t believe what I was hearing; it was the exact opposite of my fantasy. We must have had a bad connection because it sounded like the therapist was supporting her new relationship.
The outcome was as follows:
-Justine can keep seeing Taylor
-Justine does not need to make a decision about giving me a second chance yet.
-And the icing on the cake, Sam shouldn’t see or sleep with anyone during this time.
Now I knew we must be having a bad connection. Had I even woken up this morning? Had I really just gotten secondhand suggestions from someone else’s therapist? I’ve never even met this sorry excuse for a professional therapist. I was so shocked I couldn’t even be angry. I called multiple members of my ethical council, but the consensus was unanimous. This was bizarre, but, probably, not a bad idea.
I wanted to report her to whatever board manages therapist’s licenses. This was ridiculous; clearly, she was a hack. We belonged in couples counseling, not in the arms of someone else. If the hack only knew how serious I was about making this work…Suddenly I had another good idea: maybe I should call her? That’s the ticket.
I have learned in recovery to write, but not send, angry letters. So, can someone please see that she gets this. Dear Justine’s therapist, if this ever makes it to you, I’m sorry I called you a hack just now. And the other things.
Back to work:
Gym (two hours)
AA ( two hours, fourteen minutes)
Letter to the therapist (one hour, seventeen minutes)
I brought a meal to a picnic table on the beach. Big mistake. It was quiet long enough to start feeling. My fantasies of our future life, travels, and adventures were as real as memories to me. I was starting to separate from them. This was soul amputation. ( one hour)
It was time to head to salvation point No. 1, my mom’s house. I cued up the toughest rap music about survival I could think of. I know the degree of pain I was feeling isn’t called the end of the world to most Black Americans–it’s just called the world. But it still hurt for me.
I was roaring down the highway to Drop The World by Lil Wayne when my sponsor Shane called.
As usual, he wasted no time with formalities.
“We’re doing an emergency sexual ideal!” He announced this as if he was introducing the next band to the adoring audience.
For those of you who aren’t in recovery, a sexual ideal is a document you make with your sponsor to help guide your sexual decision-making. For many alcoholics and addicts, this is a
tool to prevent our shitty pickers from picking the same types of shitty partners we love to pick.I couldn’t quite understand how it fit in though, because Justine was a great pick. I was the shitty pick, but I went along with it anyway.
“Okay great, tell me your ideal partner’s top ten qualities.”
“Cool, artistic, funny, charismatic, entertaining, partner in…”
“STOP! Sam, this is wonderful, but it sounds a lot like Justine.”
“Justine is the perfect..”
“STOP. Justine is great, I love Justine, but I already know her, you already know her. We’re making a list for someone we don’t know. What are the qualities you think would make a perfect partner for you?”
I couldn’t think of anything but Justine. Cool, hip, stylish, edgy, fun.
“What about honesty, don’t you think that might be at the top of this list?”
He kept going, slowly reminding me of qualities we had talked about, that he knew I hungered for. Not long after we had a portrait of a human I might actually look forward to knowing.
“Doesn’t this person sound great? Are you excited to meet this person?” he asked softly.
Of course I was. My mind raced, trying to put together an image of what this person might even look like.
And then, horribly, the ax dropped. Shane paused, and I could hear his smile on the other end of the phone. I knew before he said anything what trap I had just walked into.
“This is a fine and beautiful person we’ve described here, Sam, and I can’t wait to help you become this person.”
I shook my head and smiled, acknowledging that I had just been out-maneuvered by my coyote trickster sponsor. I sat upright in the car seat, adjusted my rear view, assumed the 10 and 2, and buckled up. This was going to be a long ride.