Chuck and Sally started with sex, and worked their way back.
The night of passion was nothing either one of them would ever experience again, and they both knew it. For the rest of his life, he’d remember the silvery taste of the skin covering her left clavicle. The moment of re-invocation happened at dinnertime, when Chuck’s wife Clare passed him the serving platter they received from their in-laws on their fifth wedding anniversary.
Sally would never forget the velvet texture of Chuck’s perineum. He shuddered as she knelt between his legs, repeatedly stroking him with her thumb. Sally was fascinated with the way each shiver rippled outward from the solar plexus, and raised the fine hairs on his arms and legs.
They met at AA. She neatly pyramided Styrofoam cups, and made adjustments to the cookie tray so the points of the mint meringues faced east. He got the courage to introduce himself after she mentioned to everyone in the room it’d been 117 days since she’d touched a drop. The chips clicked in her left hand, an invitation to solidarity.
He was only 6 days behind her. She became his beacon of hope.
It didn’t take long. After two cups of coffee and a shared basket of oily fries at Nina’s Diner, the conversation between them stalled.
Chuck took a deep breath.
“You are my inspiration.”
Sally put down her cup, licked her lips and said, “Pass the mustard.”
He grabbed her hand, threw down some money for the food, and led her out of the grease pit. He walked her to his car, opened the passenger door, helped her in, and even took an extra moment to make sure her seatbelt was fastened. She smiled; an inspirational smile.
The Motel 4 was just up the road. She waited in the car while he went in to pay for a room. He gave the clerk thirty bucks, but forget his change.
They opened the door. The room smelled dank. X-files green light filtered through skewed blinds. By this light they stripped and tumbled onto the concave mattress. He didn’t bother with a rubber; when she discovered his vasectomy scars, she threw herself into the whole business of oral copulation with more abandon than he’d ever seen in Clare.
The next time, and the time after that were awkward. Sally smiled when Chuck entered the room, but her face crumbled as he quickly past her while he made small talk with his sponsor. The meringues now faced north. The cups were carelessly set out with the plastic bag still clinging to the bottom.
By the fifth meeting, she wasn’t there. He’d almost not gone, but a call from his sponsor gave him his resolve. He’d reached 120 days. His four chips felt smug in the palm of his right hand.
Clare was proud of him. Their sex life had improved; she even went down on him with gusto - and a minimum of complaint.
At the sixth meeting, Sally showed up, filthy and stinking drunk. She overturned the coffee table, sending the Styrofoam cups and mint meringues flying south into the other member’s laps. She took her four chips and threw them at Chuck’s face. He ducked, and the chips clattered to the floor.
“Mustard! I wanted mustard! You gave me mayo!”
She staggered out of the room, and a couple of sponsors followed her. Everyone listened to her sobs, except Chuck, who clicked together the four chips in his right hand, deriving comfort from the sound.