Toast to The End (Despairing Friend)

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

Melanie recently visited a friend she hadn’t seen for years. The two of them went back a long way, roughly 25 years. Her friend had texted her to say they were in a bad place, they normally only got in touch when this happened. Previously, Melanie used to try to help. She arrived (after getting lost) and was greeted by two barking dogs. One was friendly while the other, a Romanian rescue dog, had her a little on edge. Melanie was not massively comfortable around dogs; she didn’t dislike them — her granddad had Whippets and she loved the good-natured, dopey Labradors and Golden Retrievers. But barking, snarling dogs made her uncomfortable. To be fair, the poor dog from Romania was probably anxious as hell too — what her friend was even doing with it she did not know. Her friend was half-cut at this point, midway through a bottle of wine and ’twas only lunchtime. They sat in the back garden where Melanie noticed a small paddling pool filled with empty wine bottles, as her friend proceeded to pour their heart out about traumatic events over the last couple of years while chain-smoking. Melanie found listening to her friend’s story pretty harrowing, ‘honestly some people have rotten luck in this life’ she thought to herself and, assuming everything she heard was true (Melanie had no reason to doubt them), she felt sorry to learn that her friend has had such an awful time of it. Melanie’s friend has always been psychologically fragile, having numerous hospital admissions, and she found it sad to see that drink was still their means of coping, or rather not coping. It was here that Melanie realised she felt numb to all that she was hearing. ‘Maybe I’m just a bad friend, an uncaring sort of person,’ she thought, certainly the general malaise of this world had emptied Melanie 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 friend’s repeated bouts of mental decline, Melanie contemplated, ‘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!’ She stayed for nearly 2 hours and did her best to be sympathetic, though in her mind Melanie pondered what could she do? ‘Why did my friend invite me here after all this time?’ She wondered. It didn’t feel like they wanted a friend, but Melanie couldn’t tell exactly what it was that they did want; she wasn’t sure they could tell her either. Melanie couldn’t wait to get away. She felt bad for her friend; she felt bad for feeling numb to their story, and unable to know what to say or do. It was utterly depressing and Melanie couldn’t help but note in her friend 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; her 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!’ Melanie thought of the JSO protesters and laughed at their folly; she thought of the NHS staff striking and sighed 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. Melanie laughed 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!’ She rolled her 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!’ She looked at the job ads online and bore 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.’  She mused to herself forlornly how 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.’ Melanie thought back to her friend, who she didn’t suppose she’d ever see again, drunk on despair and realised that her friend 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,’ she thought to herself one last time, ‘and let the whole fucking thing die. It’s awful. Goodnight.’

31 December 2023

© Percival Alexander