I walked down the middle of the street with my friend, who I think of as my brother, who I used to live with, in college, when I started drinking.
We were walking slow, because he had just had knee surgery the week before. It was warm in the Southern California evening in a way that I remembered, but was no longer used to.
“Can you imagine this same scene?” I asked. “You and me, walking down the middle of the street on Saturday night, eight years ago?”
“We would’ve already been wrecked,” he said.
We passed a group of college kids, from Long Beach State, playing flip cup in their front yard. They were all beautiful. They were all singing the same song.
“We would have definitely been talking to them right now,” I said.
I was missing my youth. I was remembering what it meant to be 19 and free from my past for the first time, at least physically, at least when I was drunk, at least for a while. I remember 20 people at my house, all of whom I considered close friends. I remember dancing. Keg stands, beer pong, shots. Everyone singing the same song. I remember, too, waking up places where I did not intend to be. I remember dropping out my window, after everyone else had gone to bed, and walking to the highway, in a vest and sandals, sticking my thumb out.
We walked to a restaurant on 2nd street. The sunset orange on every piece of glass. Southern California like it used to be. Like I remembered. Before I was gone. Before I became a visitor.
I went to a meeting the next day. It was a rough crowd. And sweet, too. And sincere. People who had seen darker days than me. A man, about my age, was a beer snob, then a home brewer, then someone who didn’t leave his garage. A woman waited for her ex to get out of prison, wondering what to say to him to make him leave when he’d come, she knew, knocking on her door. One woman said “We do what’s good for us today. Ain’t that something? I couldn’t imagine doing something good for myself when I was drinking. I fantasized about doing something good for myself, but I couldn’t get past that liquor store…”