As I stepped through the double doors the first thing I noticed was the smell. You know, the kind of smell that knocks you back, halting you before you continue into the room. I find myself wondering if it's a requirement that all school halls must have a musty smell that tickles your nose and makes you want to sneeze. That line of thought is cut off as I finally take a step into the room and notice the light. I've spent so much time in the dark lately that even the fridge light hurts my eyes. Just my luck that the room is lit as every other high school with the dull orange glow of artificial lighting that gives you a headache if you sit under it for too long.
Slowly I move into the room taking the opportunity to look around at the other people gathered. I begin to wonder why I'm here. I'm not like them. I'm not. I start to back up, trying to get away but find my path blocked by a woman. The look on her face is one of patience yet she also manages a healthy dose of "Just try to get past me."
"I think I've got the wrong place." I hear my voice say.
"Really?" she asks a very meaningful tone to her voice. "You're, um, free to leave at any time."
I look around again, trying to find a reason to go. A man sits off to one side, his hands flowing through the air in arcs and dives. His lips stir in an endless drone aiding the movements of his hands.
I'm not like them.
On the other side of the room, a woman, neatly ordering and reordering the cups and mugs which have been laid out for us. "The biscuits must be straight," she mutters, throwing vicious looks at anyone who dares approach the table.
I'm not like them.
"I'm not like them." I tell her, my hands feeling clammy.
She just looks at me with a knowing smile and motions me towards one of the chairs. I find I'm unable to resist and I seat myself on the hard uncomfortable surface, clutching my bag like a lifeline. I watch as the circle begins to fill.
The woman, no older then myself, sits at the front of the hall. The safety link in our circle of... of what, I don't know. She waits patiently as the final woman makes her way to the chairs, 4 mugs in her hands. Slowly so as not to spill a drop of her precious cargo, she places the mugs under her chair and sits as though it's all perfectly normal.
I'm not like them.
And so it begins with a brief introduction from our 'Guide'. Sounds kind of lame right? A more apt description would be babysitter, holding our hands and telling us its all right. There's a reason for the title you know. I had to ask. The reason is because she's there to 'guide' us through the transition we're all about to make.
"All you have to do is take the first step."
My first step should have been to keep on going once I reached the front gates. One by one the others stand and say their piece. My heart rate increases as I see the number between me and the speaker getting smaller and smaller. Why am I getting nervous? I've got nothing to fear. I haven't! God then why do I feel so scared? Only two more to go and then it's my turn. The urge to flee is so great it hurts trying to ignore it. One more. I feel sick. I can feel the sweat running down my temples. My turn. I can feel their eyes on me as I try to stand, my legs suddenly weak. Okay, I can do this, piece of cake. I keep my head down as I rise from the chair.
"My name's Willow."
I take a deep breath and raise my eyes, immediately locking with startling blue.
"And I'm an addict."
Realisation hits me.
I'm just like them.
Two weeks and I've only just learnt to brace myself as I open the double doors to the hall, the smell gets me every time. Every other night, same place, same time, same faces. Well, almost the same faces. The lady with a thing for neatness doesn't come anymore. Personally I always thought she was more of an obsessive compulsive, always had to have the biscuits just so and if anyone took one she would shout and moan about having to start all over again.
Looking around the room I see H over by the tea. She looks over and smiles at me, before turning back to her mugs.
A word that automatically makes you think of drugs or alcohol. Who knew there was so much more to it? Take H for example. It seems silly but she's addicted to Tea. Can't go anywhere without a flask of it. She's made great progress though. Only has 3 cups with her in the circle now.
It's funny but I didn't think there'd be a place for us, you know. A place where we could, go get help, and not be judged. Our guide helps a lot with that though. I'm not sure she has it in her to judge anybody. She has the patience of a saint and manages to be civil to everyone. Even Joan.
I look around and see Joan, sitting on a table at the far end of the room. Joan's official addiction is Bad Boys. Personally I think its power. She's like a mini Hitler type ordering us around. Its quite sad really, and we don't help as we all do exactly what she says. Well, all except Tara. Our guide. She sits and listens to Joan's endless whining over her latest fella, always asking the same question.
"Do you love him?"
That's when Joan breaks down sobbing, "Please don't forgive me." The look on Tara's face as she soothes the distraught blonde is enough to make me want to leave my place in the circle and just throw my arms around her. She takes everyone's pain and carries it without question.
Anyway, you wanna know what my addiction is? Computers. More precisely, the Internet. I just can't seem to get enough of it. From first thing in the morning, till last thing at night. I realised I may have a slight problem when I couldn't even get a snack without my eyes aching from the glare. I'm doing better now though, with Tara's help. I actually saw the sunset the other day and I don't even have to carry my laptop around with me anymore.
Tara's fantastic. I honestly don't think I could have done this without her. She goes online sometimes in the evenings to check up on me. Make sure I've eaten. We chat for a while and then, its almost as though I feel ready to get some sleep. I think that by actually having someone to say "Goodnight" to I get a kind of finality. Do you know what I mean?
"Okay let's start shall we?"
All this week we're looking at one addiction a night. Today's Chris. He's brought in a bin liner full of his models. The light in his eyes as he talks about his planes makes you forget why we're here and I have to say I find myself genuinely interested by what he's saying.
I love learning new things, which is kind of how I got hooked in the first place. My thirst for knowledge and my lack of knowing when to stop. I have this system where I colour code everything. I write down various notes from the pages I visit. Different coloured pens for different subjects.
"Right, Any questions?"
How quickly the nights pass now
"Then that's it guys, See you next time."
I hang back as everyone begins to filter out of the room. As the last person leaves, Tara begins to stack up the chairs and so I help. She smiles a half smile of thanks and my heart seems to skip a beat. My hands get that clammy feeling and my nerves kick in again. This time for a completely different reason. We finish clearing the hall, turn the lights out and make our way out onto the dark street. Tara thanks me again and begins to turn away. My heart races as I catch hold of her arm.
My voice? I'm not sure, but it must be because there's no-one else around and it wasn't her voice. Of course it wasn't her voice why would she be calling her own name anyway?
Now that was her voice, a soft lilting melody that can light up the darkest night.
"Um, just wanted to say thanks. For everything, you know, the whole, helping me, us."
Another half smile
"It's ok. I enjoy it. R-really."
She starts to turn again and this time I know it's my voice that shouts..
"You wanna, get some coffee sometime? Like, now maybe?"
She looks at me for what seems like an eternity. Her blue eyes boring into mine, imprinting themselves on my mind.
"You don't have to. It's just a suggestion. Maybe another time."
This time I start to turn. A hand on my arm stills me and my flesh begins to tingle.
"Coffee sounds perfect. D-do you know somewhere?"
Do I know somewhere? Of course I know somewhere, well actually I don't, but as her arm links through mine and we start walking I don't really care. I'm sure we'll find something eventually. For right now, I'm happy just walking with an angel.
Someone to say Goodnight to.