At four in the morning, J and I found ourselves alone in the dimly lit cafeteria. One couldn't say that the state we were in was "awake", exactly, but we were present enough to acknowledge that we were homosexuals, and attendantly we were both really concerned about the color scheme.
"I find that the crayons aren't always the color you think they are, especially when you're dealing with the generic ones", he said, spitting out the word "generic" the way my Southern Baptist kin do when using the word "Catholic". "That's why I like to create a color story before I begin a new project." He gestured towards an unmolested page from a coloring book featuring a pair of joyful stegosauri that we'd selected as tonight's enterprise. "Do you see how razzmatazz looks mauve by just eyeing it? Check this out".
He rubbed the crayon onto a piece of scratch paper.
"Ooooh, right", I cooed. "It's like, more purple"
After a battery of testing, we decided on complimentary shades of brown and copper, bright splashes of cerulean, and that we would definitely be in touch with each other after all this business was said and done because we were both awesome.
I'd met J in the cafeteria a few days earlier, randomly sitting across from him during one of our tray meals. I'd seen him in the last few days, I thought, but in my benzo -fog I wasn't sure where, or why I sensed that I had been there a little longer than him.
We started talking and he made an offhand comment about an ex boyfriend and the band Built to Spill. We were fast friends. It was his second time in this facility in a month. "And the first time I was here I spotted absolutely no 'mos at all, which, come ON!".
At five in the morning, we'd made considerable progress. While discussing how to alternate the placement of Alloy Orange Metallic and Chestnut on our second palm tree trunk, my counselor arrived for her day at work. She seemed surprised by what she interrupted.
"I guess you really do get here at the crack of dawn!", I said, because she'd said that.
"Yes,.........", she said, before quickly disappearing into her office.
J and I were pals for days, sitting together during acupuncture hour, watching the Shawshank Redemption again, and again, and again, eating our thousandth garden-salad-with-ranch. A few days before I left, though, J got good news. He was being released from the facility and would be entering an inpatient rehabilitation facility shortly. It was bittersweet, like it must be when your prison bro gets paroled and leaves you in the clink with words of encouragement and nobody to color dinosaurs with at four in the morning. "I'll text you with my info when I get home", he said before he left. I was discharged several days later and made a beeline for my phone. I was delighted to find that J had texted me. I got in touch with him and we made plans to attend an AA meeting the following evening.
I was with my friend A the next day when Josh called to confirm our plans. When I got off the phone, I said to A, "I really wish you could come with us to the meeting tonight. You would SO love J. For example, he has a tramp stamp that says 'Stay Classy' and-"
A interrupted, "Oh MY GOD. YOUR friend J is my friend J!!!". It was true. They'd known each other for years. It was only one of a mystical series of coincidences that have occurred lately.
Before our meeting that night, I gave him the finished dinosaur project. I'd deviated from his color story somewhat, and it was clear the project had gone downhill after his resignation as Project Manager. He didn't mention it, though, which was uncommonly kind.
J's time since leaving detox has been a little rocky, and he ditched the city to stay with his sister in a more rural area until he gets placed into an inpatient facility. He was a priceless resource when I needed someone who knew the score to speak with during my brief period of freedom between facilities. I got a really encouraging email from him regarding his circumstances today.
Before leaving the detox facility I had a conversation with my counselor about my post-detox plans. I said "You remember that guy I was coloring with the other morning? We have a lot in common and he has some experience with meetings in my neighborhood, so he was able to recommend a few for me".
"Uh huh", she said, eyeing me seriously over the top of her Tina Fey glasses. "Just be careful you're going to these meetings to recover, not because they're some sort of meat market". Noted.