Reluctance of an Introvert

Like back when I still went to meetings
and other drunks urged me to take a seat
somewhere in the middle of the room,
saying folks on the edge could be
jumped by wolves, happens all the time.
Or like how, if they called on me, I’d always
say I prefer to listen tonight, thank you,

guessing nobody wanted to hear
another relapse story. Those mornings
I’d get wasted after praying in the shower,
and after sitting outside a liquor store
for twenty minutes, staring at the brown
bags the customers were holding. All
I’d really have to talk about now is

how it killed me this summer watching
groups of students eating together in
the PLU cafeteria, smiling over their trays,
or when I’d catch them sharing blankets
on the lawn like they’ve known each
other for years. And yet I roam the fifth
floor of Harstad—all the dorm rooms
empty but mine—feeling perfectly
at home. No porn or Tayler Swift blaring
through walls, nobody stomping back
from the bars at one a.m. Lately what
I’ve craved more than booze is to be
someone’s friend and not wonder if I’m
going to fuck it up, if me not drinking will

be a problem, how long before I stop
answering texts. Last night at a reading
Casey Fuller talked to me about when
he was a kid breaking into neighbors’ houses,
dueling bottle rockets with his buddies
on the fourth of July. I wanted to blurt
out, Hey, why don’t you and me run down

the street and get some coffee. I kept
looking at his tattoos, the ones of Morrissey
and zombie Shakespeare. He brought up
the time he was shot by a friend in Oly,
pointing to his calf. He was just fuckin’ around
and it went off. I couldn’t help myself,
jumping in with my own story: eight years

old and playing in a vacant lot, my neighbor
hitting me with a throwing star inches
from my eye. Casey laughed, Nothing like
a head wound. I laughed too, stressing
all the blood I lost, how many stitches. Then
I almost told him about another wound,
a friend of mine killing himself years ago.
But of course, you don’t spring that shit
on someone. Even if the mood’s like the rooms
in AA, or you’re feeling desperate enough
to say that you think about this friend
every few days, wondering what type of gun
he used. Did he stick it in his mouth, under the chin
or against the temple. Was it easy to do.

Artist’s Statement
At its center, this poem is a response to living with a lack of sufficient closure and healing, intersecting three central issues: my best friend’s suicide, my subsequent battle with alcoholism, and the conflicting comfort and loneliness stemming from self-imposed isolation. And while tragedy and grief serve as its undercurrent, there also exists within this poem a search not only for day-to-day remedies, but also for the means of moving on from loss if at all possible, to achieve lasting recovery, and to finally come to terms with the questions that will never be answered.  

Brandon Lewis received his MFA from the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University in Washington State, having studied under the poets Kevin Clark, Rick Barot, Greg Glazner, and Kevin Goodan. His poems have recently appeared in Superstition Review, Nashville Review, Naugatuck River Review, The Tusculum Review, and Portland Review. Brandon has taught high school English for the past twelve years and lives near Olympia, Washington.