Sobriety in a time of planetary crisis

by Stephanie Lavau

Winner – Flash Fiction – Stephanie Lavau

I’m regretting the metallic puffer jacket. Futuristic fashion of the 1990s; nostalgic fashion in the 2020s; innov-chic now, in the 2050s. A sheen of retro-futuro-techno-optimism, worn to mask my true self. It shimmers under the streetlights as I approach the building, illuminating my shame. 

Inside, I follow a sign to the appointed room. Self-conscious, I take an empty seat and cast a quick glance around at those already in the circle. Recognition. The dark rings under the eyes. The hands that tremble, as if unable to contain a message. AA: a fellowship of people who have lost control. 

A newcomer, I’m invited to introduce myself, my vice and my misfortune. Scientist that I am, I follow the formula. “Hello, my name is Stephanie, and I’m an…” Awkward pause at the moment of truth. Truth, a fickle companion in this time of planetary crisis. “I’m an academic. I’ve lost control of my thinking.” Academic. The word brims with rebuke.

Sympathetic nods as my dreadful secrets tumble out. “It takes me weeks to develop an idea. I can’t meet my performance targets of posts and likes. I’m scared I’m going to lose my job as a thought leader.” More nodding as I stream on. “I ask peers to review my thinking before I post. I crave evidence.” Deep breath. “I know my job is optimism-isation, but I just want to be sober.” I lower my eyes in shame and rub my elbows nervously, longing for leather patches on corduroy.