Samantha Oberhausen


Wine Spillers Anonymous

The group is meeting in a new location today. The community center had told us we couldn’t have our meetings there anymore because of the mess. So instead, we decided to hold the meeting at Jim’s house as he is the only one with a sizeable living room to accommodate all of us. I look around the room at the wine-stained furniture (it almost looks intentionally tie-dyed) and at the men occupying each of the seats. I notice that everyone seems to be having a red tonight, which is typical of all of them, except Frank who I know to be partial to chardonnay. Jim is describing how, last night, he spilled an entire bottle of an antique merlot all over his wife’s favorite tablecloth. Each man listens solemnly, sipping from his glass. Or, rather, I suppose I should say “sippy cup,” since that is the technical term for the receptacle we all hold in our hands at this moment. I don’t know why he insisted on having us drink out of something so infantile, which, as you can probably imagine, really changes the experience when his furniture is already ruined. But I suppose it’s natural for him to worry. After all, that is why each of us is here.

We all clap after Jim finishes his story. Ted starts speaking next and what he says is absolutely devastating: “So, like, I went out and bought this white rug the other day, like a really nice rug. And we all know how expensive rugs are these days, am I right, guys? Man, I have bought so many rugs in my time. But anyway, I get this new one as a kind of motivation, right? Maybe, I’ll be more motivated if I have something I really don’t want to spill wine on. So, I get it home, lay it out on the floor, and it looks really good. My wife and I decide we should have a glass, you know, to celebrate, and sort of test it out. So, I’m walking over to the couch with two glasses of this really great Syrah, and I fucking trip on the edge of the new rug and fall right on my face. It wasn’t even unrolled for five minutes before I ruined it.” He sighs and puts his face in his hands. “You know, sometimes I feel like I should just quit drinking wine altogether.” For a moment, the room falls silent, heavy with the weight of Ted’s last statement.

“Ted, man, don’t even say something like that,” Bill finally objects. “You’re gonna beat this thing. We all are! That’s why we’re here, to lean on each other through all the ruined carpets and couches and sweaters and tablecloths! All the pink dogs that used to be white! All the wine wasted on the floor! All the dates who left early, thinking you were a spaz!” He was speaking to the whole group now. “Are we quitters?”

“No!” we all shout back.

“Exactly! So I’d like to raise a glass to Ted, to thank him for sharing his story, and to congratulate him on not backing down and just ‘giving up’ on wine, but sticking with it through the hard times!”

Everyone raises their sippy cups, which don’t so much “clink” but get biffed together, producing almost no sound. The room feels extremely positive and uplifting. Then, suddenly, “Shit!” We all look in Jim’s direction. He had spilled his wine.

Emotional Support Animal Hoarders Anonymous

People walking by stare at our group as though we look quite a spectacle, sitting here in our circle of folding chairs in the park. It feels eerie, as though I am on display. As if I can help that I have two cats on leashes on the ground next to me; a toy poodle, wearing a vest that is too big for him because they don’t make the proper size, sitting in my lap; and a cockatoo on my shoulder. “It’s therapeutic!” I shout at the little girl who is rudely pointing at me as she walks by with her mother.

“Denise, don’t worry about them,” Brian, the group leader, says gently. “Now who would like to get started?” Margery stands up next to me.

“I think I’ve finally accepted that I have too many emotional support animals. It’s just gotten to the point where they aren’t making me feel better when I get a new one, like they used to. I think I’m really just trying to fill a totally endless void with cats, and it’s just never going to be enough. I’m going to have to take out a loan soon if I get any more. So, yeah, that’s basically just where I’m at.”

“That’s very good, Margery,” Brian replies.

“Thanks. You know, I don’t know, maybe I could just get one more. Like I never got to get that final cat, and I think it might give me some closure—”

Brian jumps in. “Margery, that’s backtracking. I know you can do it. You said it yourself, no amount of cats will ever really make you feel whole. It has to come from inside.”

“Okay, yes, you’re right,” she says. She pulls out her phone, and I can see her trying to discreetly look up the hours of the animal shelter. I reckon she’s going to stop by after the meeting and get another cat. Margery is a real nutjob.

Brian starts again. “Alright, so who’s next? Denise, do you have anything to share?”

“I honestly don’t even feel like I need to be here. I’m only coming to get my mother off my back,” I respond.

“Denise, how many support animals do you have again?”

“Only nine! I literally do not see what’s wrong with that. And, if you might notice, I left the cow, the hamsters, and the corn snake at home this time. And, by the way, looking at you, Geoff, Mr. Slithers is not a ‘danger’ to your rats. He’s completely docile. This group is a bunch of fascists.”

I sit back down. I can’t wait for this to be over. Other members of the group drone on about the difficulty of caring for so many animals, how that might actually be the main source of stress in their lives at this point, blah, blah, blah. Finally, it reaches five o’clock and everyone, including myself, starts getting antsy about leaving. It’s almost time for the animals’ dinners.

Concurrent Exercise-Haters and Environmentalists Anonymous

This week’s meeting (like all of them) was cancelled because no one could figure out how to attend it without driving and, therefore, polluting the air or engaging in some form of physical exercise, such as walking or riding a bicycle.

Road Ragers Anonymous

I take my usual seat in the circle of chairs set up in the musty, fluorescently lit church basement. I feel like I’ve been doing pretty well with my road rage over the past week. I only flipped someone off a couple of times, and after realizing my error, I followed up with an apology wave. I think I’ll mention this to the group.

“Welcome, everyone, to Road Ragers Anonymous. It looks like everyone who’s going to make it today has arrived, so why don’t we get started?” Craig says.

A woman I don’t recognize stands up. “Hi, I’m Nancy, and I’m a road rager.”

“Hi, Nancy,” we all respond in the usual chorus.

“I feel like my problem with road rage really started when—”

Suddenly the door flies open and Brad storms in, looking pissed.

“Hey, Tom!” he shouts at me. “You have a blue Honda Accord, don’t you?”

“Uh, yeah, why?”

“Motherfucker! You cut me off on Lincoln Street on the way here! What the hell is wrong with you?”

“Jeez, man, no need to get mad, I mean that’s why we’re all here, right?”

“You made me fucking miss my turn—I was so goddamn mad! And look at that! Now I’m late and I had to interrupt that lady so I could deal with your dumb ass who doesn’t know how to drive!”

Brad is standing in front of me now. He bends down and points a finger right in my face.“People like you shouldn’t be allowed on the road.” 

I’m still trying to play it cool, show Craig that I can deal with this without getting mad. But still, I can’t let Brad think I’m going to take this lying down, so I stand up. I’m a little taller than him anyway, which boosts my confidence.

“Well, you know, maybe if you would just chill out and let people in, I wouldn’t have had to edge over like that.”

“Fuck you, man!” Brad gives me a shove.

“Fuck you!” I shove him back.

It turns into an all-out brawl and we’re wrestling on the ground. The other guys and Nancy, after a few minutes of desperately trying to pull us apart, finally succeed in getting Brad off of me. “This meeting is over!” Craig shouts. We stomp out of the church basement. I notice a great calmness as I walk outside in the cool evening air. This peace is quickly destroyed by the sound of twelve honking cars all trying to leave the parking lot.

Murder Victims Anonymous

(No one has yet signed up for this support group)

Samantha Oberhausen is a senior at Willamette University in Salem, OR, pursuing a dual degree in English and Spanish. This is her first published piece. Outside of college, she works in childcare and enjoys bowling and juggling.

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