As far as I know I never took anyone’s virginity. For one thing, I never asked, and it never really mattered to me, whether a woman was a virgin or not, or how many people she’d slept with. Some guys really care. A key that unlocks many locks is dope but a lock that opens for any key is busted, is how it was explained to me once, but I’m no fucking locksmith. I just liked getting laid. Sex, to me, was not this sacred act but something humans did like eating and shitting. Humanity itself wasn’t sacred. I’m a utilitarian at the end of the day, a pragmatic. Yeah I dig that esoteric shit but if I can’t apply it to my daily life then get outta my face, that shit is for the birds. The birds don’t need it either.

That’s why I dug 12-step meetings: because they give you a clear, pragmatic approach to saving your own life, show you how to get out of the shit and start living. Do this, they say, and you’ll be surprised what happens. All sorts of doors start opening in places you never thought to look. It’s hard but it’s simple, is what my first sponsor used to say. I’ve had several sponsors since because I’d always talk myself out of going, then have to go back. I have my problems with meetings but I learned to humble myself and stop thinking I was different. There ain’t no small you’s and big I’s in those meetings. Most people, even non-drug addicts, could go and apply that to life.

I was going to an early morning meeting at the top of First and International, right by this psychic I had visited with E. near the end of our relationship. I was uneasy and bounced my leg as she pulled cards. She knew my father had committed suicide though I hadn’t mentioned him. She asked if I believed in demons, like real ones. I laughed and said no. Well, there are demons after you, she said. How did she know I wanted out of the relationship? How did she know I was talking to another girl? She told us someone wanted it to be over. We looked at each other. She told us that E. had had an abortion in Long Beach. It was my first time hearing about it. She offered us a cleanse and we declined and walked out the door onto Lakeshore Avenue where we stood and I got tunnel vision or vertigo. E. left me because I was cheating on her. I was also using dope again but nobody cared. I hung my head and went back to Vacaville, where I slept on Oliver’s couch for six months and went to the meetings.

There was nothing special about the meetings. I liked the early morning ones, it started my day right. Most of the time I drifted into sleep but I caught enough for it to make me feel better. The first time I went, a dude said something like You know, I could leave anything—women, jobs, family—but I couldn’t leave that dope. I shook my head and said Yes, this is the place for me. It felt like the end of Jesus’ Son.

I was born south of San Francisco, on the peninsula in Redwood City. 44% of it is water so I was damn near born in the ocean. There was something about the way the peninsula smelled that made me feel at home, it was something I craved. Home, that smell. I’m not sure if it was the eucalyptus or redwoods but it was something with healing properties. I wanted to tell E. that shit was catching up to me but I held it in, afraid she would leave me if she knew. Most everyone in my life had left in some way so what made her special. I was angry that I couldn’t escape my past no matter how hard I tried or what I did. It was always there, reminding me of who I really was at the end of the day. I wanted to change, I tried to change but the past was like a pair of shackles, a thick shadow that wrapped itself around me and obscured the way forward. I didn’t understand all the stories about redemption and shit, like how did that happen? It was bullshit. It was a racket. They sold the possibility as an idea because it made us feel better, but some of us knew we couldn’t escape the truth.

But I am relaxing into it, I am knowing it. Living what cannot be escaped. No longer fighting. I against I no more. Kierkegaard wrote a book called Either/Or and what that means is it doesn’t matter what choice you make, you will regret it. That’s why everyone is full of regret, we can’t escape it. Or we can but it’s hard and we’re lazy. You’d have to be Buddhist or something to not regret shit. Or maybe it’s simply a fucking choice to not carry it with you, big regret, leave it down by the side of the road for the vultures to pick through, because it doesn’t matter. Not in the gross nihilistic way but doesn’t matter as in, let it go and move on. The book is way more complicated than that but I am not smart enough to grasp it, only smart enough to know I am too stupid to understand. But I like Kierkegaard, he was a weird cat.

Cory Bennet graduated with an MFA from University of Nevada. He has published stories at Expat, Hobart, X-R-A-Y, Forever Magazine, and elsewhere. He lives in Ohio.

Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower

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