Toast to The End (Despairing Friend)

‘Let it die.  Let there be a new beginning.  It’s awful.  Goodnight.’  ~ Charles Bukowski

I recently visited a friend I haven’t seen for years. We go back a long way, roughly 25 years. They said they were in a bad place, they normally only get in touch when this happens. Previously, I used to try to help. I arrived (after getting lost) and they greeted me with two dogs barking. One was friendly while the other, a Romanian rescue dog, had me a little on edge. I’m not massively comfortable around dogs; I don’t dislike them — my granddad had Whippets and I love the good-natured, dopey Labradors and Golden Retrievers. But barking, snarling dogs make me uncomfortable. To be fair, the poor dog from Romania was probably anxious as hell too — what she was even doing with it I do not know. My friend was half-cut at this point, midway through a bottle of wine and ’twas only lunchtime. We sat in the back garden where I noticed a small paddling pool filled with empty wine bottles, as she proceeded to pour her heart out about her trauma over the last couple of years while chain-smoking. Listening to her story was pretty harrowing, honestly some people have rotten luck in this life and, assuming everything she said was true (I have no reason to doubt her), my friend really has had an awful time of it. She has always been psychologically fragile, having numerous hospital admissions, and it was sad to see that drink was still her means of coping, or rather not coping. It was here that I realised I felt numb to all that she was telling me. Maybe I’m just a bad friend, an uncaring sort of person, certainly the general malaise of this world has emptied me somewhat. Nevertheless, to see somebody trapped in a repeated cycle of self-destruction and, after all this time (20 years plus!), to seemingly not at least consider the possibility of trying something different to break the chain: to not drink and therefore to (in all likelihood) avoid abusive and toxic relationships (usually encountered/formed when drinking), which are a significant catalyst to her repeated bouts of mental decline, I wondered, is it really a case that the familiarity of trauma is less daunting than the possibility of breaking free? Are human beings inherently self-destructive and the real meaning of life is to overcome this inclination towards falling prey to living in calamitous cycles in order to live life fully? Who thought of this! I stayed for nearly 2 hours and did my best to be sympathetic, though in my mind I pondered what could I do? Why did she invite me here after all this time? It didn’t feel like she wanted a friend, but I couldn’t tell exactly what it was that she did want; I’m not sure she could tell me either. I couldn’t wait to get away. I felt bad for her; I felt bad for feeling numb to her story, and unable to know what to say or do. It was utterly depressing and I couldn’t help but note in her a microcosm of the omnipresent horror of it all. From Oppenheimer to AI; National Socialism, Fascism, Communism and today’s Zombie-Consumerist brand of Hyper-Capitalism; my friend’s drink-addled, existential despair reflected the hopelessness of a world that is wholly anti-art, anti-love, anti-joy, anti-beauty, anti-human, anti-nature … all the while marching towards the precipice of its own destruction, unable to break free. All for a dollar sign, all in the name of fucking make-believe. History is a joke — one sad, sorry, traumatic, utterly ridiculous, sick fucking joke. I look at the JSO protesters and laugh at their folly; I look at the NHS staff striking and sigh at the irony: how they were used as an oppressive extension of the state to roll out vaccines and now the machine needs to cut its costs and so they, like the rest of us, are mere collateral in the on-going march of progress towards extinction in the name of profits. I laugh at the absurdity of obscenely wealthy movie stars on the picket line, passing themselves off as having solidarity with the workers — what a stupid time to be alive! I roll my eyes at a petty culture war mediated largely through irrelevant, mid-wit journalists on both sides — the real ones are in prison, such is our totalitarian dystopia. I look at the job ads online and bear witness to a dead-end industry created to promote, naturally, a dead-end. Techno-fascism has given rise to a suffocating brand of normalcy through an all-pervading conformity; you literally need a Smartphone to exist in society. Choice is an illusion. No one thinks about this because the individual is dead. There will be no revolution; we have reached the End of History, the End Times are near. I think back to my friend, who I don’t suppose I’ll ever see again, drunk on despair and I realise that she is everywhere: we are all drowning in the collective melancholy of war and ecocide upheld by a cul-de-sac of unsustainable, ultra-conformist consumerism, giving rise to a vicious brand of populism, all the while scrolling our lives into oblivion obsessed with the Americanisation of everything. So let’s all raise a glass and toast our bad health. And let the whole fucking thing die. It’s awful. Goodnight.

23 July 2023

© Percival Alexander