“Thanks Carlos.” She smiled at him.
“You got a ride back?” Carlos asked her as she opened the car door to jump onto the curb. He was a gentle guy with a family of three boys and one little five year old girl, an after- thought or midlife baby judging from Carlos’s wife who looked late forties.
“It looks okay. I’ll get a cab or grab a lift from someone here.” She lied to him because she didn’t know anyone and wouldn’t accept a ride from a bunch of addicts. Like me, she thought. Not just like me. “The leader for our group said he’d find someone for me,” she lied again. When she called Gary, the leader for the N.A. group, he had suggested there might be a bus back or she could get with one of the guys, but he couldn’t commit because he never knew who would show. She understood. She watched as Carlos pulled away to circle wide into a U turn and drive back toward Redondo Beach Boulevard.
There was a flash rain earlier so it was muddy in the parking lot. She looked around for the building Gary had described, and picked it out, a low-lying one story attached to a Baptist Church that must have been the all-purpose rooms for children’s Bible studies. It looked like so many built in the early sixties, weathered, losing its layer of cheap brown paint. She found it hard to believe that anyone worshiped in the church or that children filled the classrooms for stories of Joseph and his brothers on Sundays. The lights shone onto the dark parking lot, offering just enough for her to navigate the path of broken concrete sidewalk.
She swung open the door to find a woman in her late twenties just inside, looking out, jittery, her hands shaking. Molly said hello and the young woman nodded and slipped outside for a cigarette, reminding Molly that they were in a public building and would be expected to refrain from smoking. She spun on her heel and joined the girl, lighting up as she spoke. “Do they start on time?”
Smoke from Molly’s cigarette wafted in her direction. The girl rubbed her eye and Molly apologized, changing her direction. “Yeah, ten to eight. No worries, it’s 7:45. She was looking furtively from the parking lot to the street lined with scraggly brush and unkempt hedges, and then back down the street Molly traveled to get there. The conversation ended as the girl’s own agenda asserted itself. A car raced toward the side of the lot and stopped in one jerky squeal, and the girl rushed to the open window near the driver, who handed her something which she quickly pocketed, and just as quickly moved back to the curb, brushing past Molly into the building.
Molly blew out the smoke from a deep drag on her cigarette and noticed the car idling at the curb, waiting. Waiting for her, for another customer who might want, need, a soother to get them through an evening of self-recrimination, self-doubt, regret. Or just listening to the others as they played out the litany of their broken dreams, or more likely the broken promises they made as they scooped up the last bits of a paycheck to satisfy the monster habit. When she made no move toward the car, the man with the Fu Manchu mustache drove away.
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