“I see a new face this evening. Would you like to introduce yourself?”
“No, that’s quite alright.” He guffaws, in a snide, nonplussed way that tries a little too hard to be cool.
“One of the traditions of the group is to introduce yourself at your first meeting. Call it a gentle form of hazing if you must.” He stares with gentle, prodding eyes. His curiosity is genuine which makes it unnerving.
“No, really, I’m quite fine. I promise.” He slouches, trying to make himself smaller, more inconspicuous even though he had already been spotted.
“I certainly won’t pressure you.”
“Thanks.” His response is more biting than he had intended. He sinks further in his chair.
“I totally understand. We have all been in the same place you are. Our first meeting is always scary.”
“It’s not —” He barks before realizing himself. “I’m not scared.” His arms are crossed.
“I’m not saying you are.” His eyes stare through the crossed arms. “But if you were, we would, I, at least, would understand.”
He snorts again. “I’m definitely not scared to talk to a bunch of fucking losers about my problems.”
“We try to avoid personal attacks. The outside world throws enough judgement. This is a safe space.” His reprimand is delicate. He informs more than scolds.
“Whatever.” He is almost laying down in his chair now.
“We are all here for a reason.” The statement hangs in the air. “I’m curious.” He doesn’t ask a question. He doesn’t have to.
“Do you know SIDS isn’t an actual thing?” He sits up in his seat, looking around the room for the first time. “You think because they give something a name it must be consistent and identifiable. What’s the point in naming something if it can’t be defined? It completely defeats the purpose. It turns out SIDS is just code for sometimes babies die and we don’t know why so we give it a name to make people feel better about it. Like naming something gives you power over it. Like in the Exorcist when the priests have to trick the demon into revealing its name before they can get rid of it. Who cares what the demon’s name is? It’s a demon, that’s all you need to know. Who gives a fuck what it’s mom yelled when she was calling it in for demon supper.”
He leans forward, his words pouring from his mouth. He glances from one face to the next, eager, desperate. “But that’s what we do. We label things in an attempt to take their teeth out and then are shocked when these neatly itemized things bite the shit out of us. When you wake up in the morning and find your little man laying in his crib too still, too blue, terms like Sometime Kids Die doesn’t make the reality any less horrifying. It’s a lot like alcoholism. When do you become an alcoholic exactly? Does having a beer after work everyday make you an alcoholic? What if I only drink once a week but do it till I blackout? Am I an alcoholic then? What line do you have to cross? Are you officially an alcoholic when you lose your job? What about your wife? Do you become an alcoholic when you don’t see the little girl in the street and you become SIDS to her parents? All these words we throw around so technically but we never know what they mean. Do I deserve to be here? Who knows. But I will be for the foreseeable future whether I like it or not.”
“Thank you for that. I know opening up is hard.” He nods in appreciation.
“Whatever.” His arms are crossed as he slides into his seat once again.