It was Saturday night. Friday, I’d got out of rehab. Someone called me and said did I want to go to a meeting of sex addicts. Probably be full of men who’re addicted to internet porn I thought.
“Sure,” I said; what else was I going to do. “Will there be girls there?”
It was being held in the basement of some church in Islington. I was sitting in the back row watching the girl in front of me touching her neck. There were young, old, women, men. Someone lit a couple of candles and set them on a low table in the centre.
“Lights,” said a voice from the front.
The crypt was darkened; some people kept talking, finishing their conversations in low voices.
The secretary spoke up: “We’re very lucky to have Roy here who’s agreed to share his experience, strength and hope with us for about 10-15 minutes, at which time I’ll open the meeting for general sharing. So, Roy, I’ll hand the meeting over to you …”
Roy said thanks. I looked over the heads to see him. He was tall and thin and bald. It was hard to tell his age in the half-light.
After a pause he said, “Some of you who know me will remember … when I came into these rooms it was in a wheelchair.”
Some people around the table made faint noises. “I was in a wheelchair,” said Roy, “because I’d broken both my legs, multiple fractures … that was because I’d jumped out of a third floor window. “And why did I do that to myself?”
He waited. The sound of Saturday night traffic from the high road was very faint.
“The reason, if I’m honest, was because someone I’d met had stopped returning my calls. That’s how this sex and love addict handles rejection.”
Roy went on to say there should have been a big sign outside his family home saying, “your needs will not be met in this building.” This sounded like a joke he’d used before. Nobody laughed.
I wanted to know more about his family. But he didn’t say anymore; perhaps it was too awful.
It made me think about my own childhood; Spam starting to put his cock in my mouth. The pregnancy that led to my first suicide attempt; the miscarriage; the tiny little foetus I’d tried to ram down the bath plughole then finally flushed away in the toilet.
It was time to open the meeting up for general sharing.
“It’s ironic,” said one woman who described herself as anorexic when it came to relationships, “put me in a crowded room and eventually I always end up with the avoidant.”
A girl with brown doggy eyes talked about an imaginary relationship with her boss, a recurring pattern in her work life. “All we can do is love, desperately,” she said solemnly. “As far as our own needs go, we can’t even name them.”
Someone was celebrating 60 days of abstinence, she was applauded; a tearful man said his wife had finally kicked him out because of his addiction to internet porn. And so on.
The secretary said there was time for one more.
An elderly woman in the corner spoke up. She said she’d related to everything Roy had said. She said that when her last relationship ended, she’d taken a breadknife to her arm.
“I cut it to ribbons,” she said. She stopped talking, abruptly.
The secretary said it was the end of sharing time but not the end of the meeting. The lights came on and I squinted at their faces.
On the tube home I thought about being abstinent of people. There were two lesbians sitting across from me. One had been sick on the floor and seemed to be asleep. Her partner was stroking her head and staring defiantly out at the carriage.
When I got back indoors, I tried to masturbate, thinking about the girl who’d been sitting in front of me and some of the others who spoke in the meeting too. Then I remembered the breadknife woman, and Roy rolling in, in his wheelchair. I stopped. Nothing could have brought me back.
January McCormack is a feminist who is interested in witchcraft and certain other occult traditions, and how subcultures and outsider groups interact with society at large.
January McCormack is at the final editing stage with my first novel, called Love Like Blood. It’s about a group of real-life vampires who may have a murderer in their midst.
January McCormack is also involved in editing a counterculture art magazine called Nervemeter, which is sold on the streets in London by homeless people. [www.nervemeter.co.uk]
Image: Collage by Joan Pope