“You’re young, you’re strong, and you’re alive. You can do it Allan.”

That voice again. Stinging me with nettles of hope, forcing the drudgery to shine back at me as if it’s truer than my own precious perception. I waver a little, wondering if my resolve is really so fragile. Stiffly I muster my inner resolve and press forward.

“Go for it Allan! Allan! Allan! Allan!”

I wish to God she would just shut up. Nothing makes me more nervous than that whining, nasal voice cheering me on. At least she’s not my wife. That would be the death of me for sure. I take another hesitant step forward. One foot in front of the other, one pace at a time.

I take a breather.

For a few glistening moments, there is silence. I scan my surrounds, drawing my line of vision as wide as possible. I see them there, languid, vanquished. Leering up from their cheap plastic chairs with cheaper aluminium legs. A perverted little half –smile creeps up the side of my jaw, giving me that leer of quiet confidence seen only in presidents and paedophiles. The silence breaks, my footfalls echoing around me, lighting the way forward.

I realise as I make my way past the plastic chairs that I may have been too harsh at first glance. They are languid, it’s true; and it’s certain their will and fire were vanquished long ago. There is little here but the distorted memories of worlds long since burned out and faded away. Yet I feel momentarily compelled, unfamiliar the sudden urge to reach out and touch each and every one of them, just put my hands in their hands and smile.

This is not like me.

I’m not a people person, I’ll tell you that much. Never was, probably never will be. It’s not people that are the problem, and no, you guessed wrong, it’s not really me either. I’m social enough; I know my courtesies, observe the social graces. It’s simply an unfortunate fact that conversation, for me, and for those stuck loathsomely in my conversation, is at best an awkward dance of tongues.

It reminds me of my sexual performance, every time it happens. Conversation that is.

Yet now is not the time to dwell on such things. I’ve passed them by, head held high, and I’ve only a few more steps to take. I take the short look over my shoulder, the little smile lingering, that nasal little witch grinning and waving in that infuriatingly likeable way that she always does. That’s a connection I’d rather not dwell on, not now, not ever.

One step closer.

It’s almost over, I take the last two strides with a cocky pride I never knew I possessed. My heel spins, and I am suddenly the centre of attention. I raise my head and lock eyes with her, the voice of reason, that disgusting filthy little voice so full of life and hope.

Then I say it.

“Hi. My name is Allan…and I’m an alcoholic.”