There was no work available that day, so Noah went to a meeting over in Belchertown, a few towns away. Two meetings today might be a good idea, Noah reasoned. Especially since he didn’t have any other plans. And after the first one, he realized he was right. He already felt steadier, but not enough
There were still about two hours until the New Winslow meeting started, so Noah decided to take a walk before heading back to town. It was cold and he’d forgotten a hat, but his leather jacket would probably provide enough protection if he decided to walk down by the Quabbin Reservoir for a little while.
The meeting was about ten minutes away from the reservoir, so he drove in silence down the wooded roads toward his destination. Even now, there were still dried leaves clinging to the trees along the side of the road as he passed. Noah had to respect the determination, even as one of the leaves tore off from the branch and blew away as he passed. He kept the radio off as he drove, but regretted it after a few minutes of silence. Even a scratchy church service would be better than the way his brain kept turning the events of last night over in his brain. Liv’s anger, Andrew’s disappointment. Noah had finally caved and picked up some bandages on his way to Belchertown today, but the sharp sting as he pressed his hand into the steering wheel just brought it all back so clearly that it might as well still be happening.
Of course they didn’t believe him. And it hadn’t occurred to him to tell them about the sleepwalking. Or, it had, but he’d figured it was no big deal. So of course this was going to happen eventually. And now that it had, Noah was furious with himself for letting it.
He pulled into the small parking lot, turned off his truck, and got out. Nobody else was around, which he was grateful for. If he was going to be a mess, at least he’d be one on his own.
The wind whipped off the massive reservoir, slowing him down as soon as he started walking down the path. He’d parked in a lot near the Windsor Dam and he could see the enormous structure coming up ahead of him almost immediately. It had been years since he’d walked up here and the wooded paths were still covered in snow, so they weren’t worth trying to navigate right now. But the paved walkway leading up and across the dam would be perfect for clearing his head.
He buried his hands in his pockets and started walking, trying to ignore the way the wind roared against his ears. The water was busy, lapping against the dam as he approached. But walking felt good and there was nobody down here by the dam either. Probably because they were smart enough to get out of the cold.
He needed to put more effort into his sobriety. The idea made Noah feel defensive, even though it came from him. He was putting effort in. He spent so much time forcing himself not to drink. Hours in therapy and in meetings. Not to mention the six weeks he’d taken out of his life to go to rehab in the first place. But while he wasn’t sure what other options he’d had to avoid last night, he was the one at fault there.
A seagull flew past him, the wind battering its body as it went. Noah kept walking, squinting as the sun reflected off the icy water. He needed to get a sponsor. He’d been putting it off and he needed to actually fucking do it. Part of why he’d put off telling the others about his sleepwalking and why he kept messing up was because he didn’t have someone else to help him through this and keep him accountable. The others were great, but they didn’t get it and Noah shouldn’t expect them to.
A little while later, Noah was back in his truck. His face was numb, but his body felt better after moving for a little while. He needed that, too. He’d been making an effort to be more active lately, but maybe he should step that up. The long walks in New Winslow and the housework he’d never be caught up on definitely helped him wear out his body, but he probably needed more. There were no gyms in New Winslow, but maybe he could get a membership somewhere else? Or just run for now and save money. Maybe after the meeting he’d go for a run.
Noah got to the meeting in the basement of the Congregational Church and realized he was nervous. God, this was almost like asking someone to prom, wasn’t it? What if Roman said no? He knew that it would be nothing personal – probably – but it’d still be embarrassing.
Thankfully he had no reason to speak at today’s meeting, so he was able to spend the whole time dwelling. He half-listened to the speakers and applauded along automatically each time. But by the time the meeting was over, Noah was second-guessing his decision. It’d be easier to just leave. Go home, lock himself in his apartment, and ignore everything and everyone for a little while.
Maybe just have one drink too.
Shit, no. He needed to do this.
Roman was talking to Mr. Rodowicz as Noah poured a cup of coffee. He waited awkwardly by the coffee table, nodding hello as people came by. Finally, he saw Roman starting to walk toward the table too.
“Hey, man,” Roman said.
“Hey,” Noah replied. “Um, you got a second?”
“Yeah, of course.”
There were still a few folding chairs out, so they sat down in a couple of them. Roman took a sip of his coffee and looked at him. “Everything okay?”
Roman watched patiently as Noah tried to find the words. Finally, he just spit it out. “Would you be my sponsor?”
Roman blinked at him, and Noah regretted it immediately. But then Roman nodded. “Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, of course.”
The relief was almost overwhelming. “Thanks.”
“To be honest, when you said you wanted to talk, I thought it was going to be something ghost-related.”
“Nope,” Noah said. “No, just me. It’s been… it’s been weird, you know?”
“Want to talk about it?”
Noah laughed. “No,” he said. “But I probably should, shouldn’t I?”
He felt better by the time he got home a little while later. Roman had given Noah his phone number, as well as permission to call him at any time. Roman had emphasized that, saying he’d always either pick up or call him right back. Noah believed him, but doubted he’d ever take Roman up on that at weird hours. Roman had kids, Noah wasn’t going to wake them up. But either way, he was relieved he’d finally taken that step.
Even still, Noah hesitated as he got out of his truck. The sun was starting to go down and he realized with a start that he’d been out nearly all day. He had planned on just heading upstairs from here and having a normal evening. Or at least as normal an evening as he could have when self-conscious about every step he took in his apartment. But now that he was here, he was rethinking everything.
Should he go check in with the others? Let them know that they didn’t need to worry about him? Or was that presumptuous? Maybe they hadn’t been thinking about him at all. Maybe he should just go upstairs and leave everyone alone. He brought them all enough trouble apparently, even if they were kind enough not to say it.
Liv had invited him for dinner, that might be nice. But the idea of sitting in that usually warm, welcoming kitchen was too much right now. It was going to be too warm, too loud. He’d make himself sick while bringing down the mood for everyone else.
Maybe Jude was home. Getting laid might make Noah feel a little less like he was out of step with everything. Maybe they could fuck, then get some takeout or something. He was about to pull out his phone to text Jude when the front door opened and Andrew walked out. He was holding a trash bag and didn’t seem surprised to see Noah standing by his truck still.
“Hi,” Andrew said, with an awkward wave.
“Listen, I’m sor-”
Noah waved him off and Andrew stopped mid-word. “No, don’t be sorry,” Noah said. “That’s on me. I should have…”
He trailed off, the list of things he should have done so long that he wasn’t even sure where to begin. Andrew watched him for a moment. When it clearly became obvious that Noah had no way to finish what he was trying to say, Andrew set down the bag he was holding and walked over to Noah’s truck.
“Are you okay?” he asked, looking uncertainly at Noah.
“Yeah,” Noah said. “Yeah, I’m fine. I’ve been at meetings all afternoon.”
Noah wasn’t sure what to say to that. Andrew leaned against the bed of Noah’s truck like they were eighteen again. But there were lines around his eyes now. Not many, he was clearly better about things like skincare than Noah was. But they weren’t kids anymore. And even if Andrew had apologized and Noah had forgiven him, they weren’t the same as they’d been when they were kids.
Maybe it was the fact that he’d been thinking about sex when Andrew had come out, Noah wasn’t sure exactly. But he had the strongest urge to kiss Andrew right now, right here in the freezing driveway with the floodlights moments from turning on. Even in the weak in-between light, Andrew’s mouth looked soft. Noah couldn’t quite remember what he’d tasted like before he’d left. But it would be so easy to just lean over and find out what he tasted like now.
Fuck, was he out of his mind? Noah shook his head sharply, trying to get rid of that image. Then he looked at Andrew, who seemed a little alarmed. “It’s fucking freezing out here,” Noah said, forcing a laugh. “I’m going in.”
“We already had dinner, but there’s leftovers if you want them,” Andrew said, oblivious to Noah’s internal agony.
Anything Liv or Andrew had made would be better than whatever Noah was about to pour out of a can for dinner. But there was a headache blooming along his temples and he needed some time lying still in a dark room before he did anything else. “I’m good,” Noah said. “I’m just going to go upstairs. My head hurts.”
For a second, he thought Andrew might argue with him. And a small part of Noah wanted him to. But instead, Andrew nodded. “Feel better,” he said. “I’m just going to get that bag in the bin and head inside.”
He smiled softly at Noah, then went back to where the trash bag was lying slumped on the front lawn. He picked it up, then disappeared around the side of the house. Noah watched him turn the corner, then made his way inside.