"Damnit, anyway" I groused as I looked around for someplace to sit so I could take off my shoes.
I was having a major sock malfunction (which I think would be a totally rad name for a band: Major Sock Malfunction. And yes, I know no one really says "rad" anymore but I feel I can use the "ironic" clause to include it here.)
There was a stone wall (of all things - I mean, it sounds so "country lane") along the biking/hiking path, and although it was a little prickly on top I made it work. The shoes were new -- some unholy union of walking/running/hiking/cross training -- made from materials most likely discovered while researching heat shielding for the space shuttle, and the velcro/lace combination (really, one or the other people) was giving me a little trouble. (I know. Sad comment on my encroaching old-fogeyness. Next I'll be telling you all about how I tried to write a check at the grocery store.)
"Oh, hey Mr. SponsorPants." A bicyclist had been whizzing by and hit the brakes when he passed and walked himself back to where I was sitting.
"Oh. Hey there." Oh hell. What is his name? What is his name? What is his name? I chant that so much in my head it's practically a mantra.
We chatted a little, aimless pleasantries about the day, while I avoided constructing a sentence which would require proper nouns. To be honest I hadn't seen him at meetings lately -- which only occurred to me when I saw him now; it was not exactly a case of craning my neck every time I walked into a 12 Step room muttering "Is he here? Is he here?" -- there's lots of faces and lots of meetings where I live. Just 'cause I didn't see him didn't mean he wasn't going to ten meetings a week or something.
But, as is often the case, people who stop going to meetings seem to need to explain why.
"Do you still go to that Sunday meeting?" he asked.
"Yes, very regularly." It was easy to keep my tone neutral, since I was A) telling the truth and B) completely uninterested in his why-I-don't-go-to-that/any-meetings-anymore story. There are lots of people in the Program who -- rightly -- might explore or implore in this conversation. That may very well be good 12th Step work. Me? At this point in my path? Go. Don't go. Your choice. I'm not selling anything.
He whinged on for a while and more or less landed on: "I'm too busy to go to meetings now."
I was tired of looking up at him, and the wall I was sitting on had started being less supportive and more combative when it came to my posterior, so, malfunctioning socks already squirreled away in my bag, I stood and brushed off my backside.
"I get it." I said.
He stood there, bike between his legs, plainly trying to find something more to say about it. My bald "I get it" didn't really give him much in the way of purchase if he wanted to keep climbing. Even so, he seemed unwilling to let it go.
As we stood there, him apparently very interested in keeping the conversation going, and me very interested in just plain going, it began to feel like he wanted something from me. Permission? Absolution? I had retired from that business a long, long time ago. But as much as I share my sometimes grouchy internal monologue with you all here, I do try not to be an outright dick in the world, so I made an effort to shift internal gears and not communicate any impatience in body language or tone.
"Did you... you know, I'll be happy to save you a seat next Sunday." I offered. Sometimes little gestures are all it takes.
He seemed genuinely surprised. "Really?"
"Of course. Here, what's your number?" I pulled out my phone and unlocked it. He gave me his number and I texted him right then. "Now you've got mine, too. I'll save you a seat and if you want to shoot me a text or call during the week, that would be great. I could use some cheerleading on the "get out on the hiking path and do a little hiking" thing.
"Oh, I am out here running or biking every day. You have to make it a priority."
"Ah." I said. "I know but... it feels like I'm too busy."
I gave him a long look. "I guess it's just up to me to make it a priority."
Half way through nodding at me again the penny dropped.
He had the good grace to chuckle. "Right."