A Friend In Need is a Friend Who Bleeds
(Complete fictional short story)
You don’t need lots of friends, so the saying goes, just one or two really good ones.
I have none. Not one. There have been possibilities from time to time, but then, inevitably, there weren’t.
It’s my fault though; I’m under absolutely no illusions about that. I’m the one common fucking denominator. ‘Normal’ people have friends. Stay friends. Not I.
When I meet a potential new friend this happens, without fail: I turn into a complete fucking lunatic.
If anyone takes the slightest interest in me, my sheer desperation to win their approval and to gain their acceptance makes me reveal my true self, in all my pathetic, disgusting, craven glory.
Initially: excitement, potential…. and hope.
But, after the first one or two contacts, the first buds of obsession emerge. I look them up on social media. I hate the people they don’t like; but I despise the people that they do, much more. I fantasise about being their very best friend.
Then comes the turning point, when things start to go wrong. They say they will text or call at a certain time, on a certain date, and it’s late. Maybe, very late. Or even, it doesn’t happen at all. I wait and I wait as long as possible, then I let my displeasure known. I dissect and scrutinise every interaction they may have with absolutely anyone who has the fucking temerity to not be me.
Then, maybe an arrangement is cancelled at short notice, because they obviously had something fucking better to do. With someone fucking better than me.
I get hurt, and I react, often passively but always very aggressively. I can’t help myself. I cogitate and cogitate. I curse them. From then, the more I search for reassurance that I am wrong, the more I push them away. My yearning, spineless, wretched need devours me repeatedly like a frenzy of ravenous locusts.
The calls become fewer and fewer.
The texts become shorter and terser…
And, they always get busier; so busy in fact, that they don’t have a spare moment.
I keep trying, forlornly, unsuccessfully, to the point of humiliation, until I finally accept that they are gone, and gone forever.
Then I send: The Email.
I explode all my pent up rage, hurt, frustration, bitterness, and resentment, in a furious written tirade of abuse. It’s always as malicious and vindictive as I can be, because I want the impact to be fucking devastating. I don’t realize, you see, that if you mean nothing as a person, your words will mean even less. Most of them probably don’t even read it.
With hindsight, I know that I should have said something different; I should have tried fucking harder. I always forget that I must be who they want me to be. But I never, ever, know just what the fuck that is.
So, I have never had friends; never had family. I wasn’t even good enough for a foster family, never mind get adopted.
I feel like I have always felt.
So here I am, sitting drinking, at some random bar, on my own. I normally drink at home, on my own, but I couldn’t wait that long tonight. This dive was made for me. It’s bleak, gloomy, and smells of stale beer, sweat, and cheap aftershave. I feel faint undertones of ammonia — pissy ammonia — clawing on the back of my throat. Luckily, this cheap whisky I am demolishing overpowers it. A revolting, Velcro-like carpet completes the decor perfectly.
This shit-hole is the perfect metaphor for my life.
I only speak to the man behind the bar at which I sit, when I need another shot. He fulfills this duty without saying a word. I care not. The other losers dotted about the place barely register, either. Each and every one of them likely as tormented as I. Lost in their heads; lost in their pasts; lost in their pain.
I need a leak, so I head towards the toilets. I’m so wrapped up in my misery and myself; it’s no wonder everybody despises me. I am selfish and self-absorbed. Why would anyone want to be my friend?
A little while later, the doors burst open, and a man appears. He breezes up to the bar. His head is up; his shoulders are back, pushing his chest out. He oozes confidence. His aura immediately commands attention. The whole pub instantly seems to get brighter and less squalid.
Maybe the whole world has.
His every move just radiates charisma. He strides over to where I was sitting. His outstretched fingers tap loudly on the wooden bar as he scans the optics behind. It’s almost as if his choice is so damn important, it needs a drum roll.
“I’ll have your finest single malt, please, my good man!“ his voice is authoritative, but also surprisingly amiable.
Then, he booms: “Right!” and claps his hands together loudly, making everyone in the bar jump. “Let’s get this party started!”
A wide infectious grin is plastered across his face. The barman, previously grumpy and non-communicative, looks momentarily stunned. Then, surprisingly, he smiles back, and fixes him a drink.
This man is everything that I am not.
He is everything that I should be; that I desperately, achingly, need to be.
He then puts a drink down right in front of me! I down it in one go, without hesitation. It tastes delicious. The fiery heat hits the back of my throat. It comforts me like open log fire on a cold winter’s night. I love single malt, but it’s out of my price-range.
“I came here tonight to save you,” he whispers in my ear. “Look around! Everyone is watching you now, because, my friend, you are with Me.”
The barman puts another drink down in front of me, without asking, and tells me this one is on the house.
This is so weird.
Amazingly, fantastically, weird.
I feel the hairs on my arms and on the back of neck stand up. My arms prickle with goose bumps. I am smiling! I feel so glad to be alive, and so genuinely happy for the first time in a long, long, long time.
A mischievous glint twinkles in his eye. “We are going to a club now, my friend, it’s time you got yourself some action.”
With a woman, he means!
Could I really meet a woman? Talk to a woman? I’ve been out of the game for so long…
My libido begins to stir from its deep, apathetic, once-perpetual slumber.
He looks me up and down and I feel some disappointment. “After you freshen up and make yourself presentable, of course.” He nods knowingly towards the WC. I notice with annoyance that I am a bit sweaty. My hands are trembling with nervous excitement. Everything is happening so quickly.
I head to the stinking, putrid, gent’s toilets, to get myself ready for a new adventure, and maybe a new life, with, at last, a friend! I make my way there, trying to keep my footwear on my feet away and from the hungry grasp of this rancid carpet. I am suddenly overcome with panic. I ask myself what the fucking hell I am doing? I think there is a very real possibility that I am sliding into complete insanity.
After quickly freshening up, I go to the sinks and wash my face with multiple splashes of refreshing ice-cold water. It is so invigorating it is almost overwhelming; I feel myself being cleansed outside and in. That insidious inferiority I carry with me every day of my life — the fucker that berates me in my head from morning to night, like an insatiable, voracious rat, gnawing, gnawing, gnawing a perpetual void so deep inside me dissipates.
I could definitely get used to this. I briefly panic that my friend will have gone, when suddenly there he is, beside me again. He wraps his arm around my shoulder.
Just like best mates do.
“You are a fine looking man.”
I do feel almost…. attractive. This is a completely new feeling for me. It’s a nice, nice, nice, feeling. I shudder. I feel almost super-charged with optimism.
My new friend seems to have almost supernatural powers. Who, or what, is he? How can he do these amazing things? He seems to read my mind. “I am just what you need.” I am in complete agreement.
He is what I need.
I do only need one true friend, after all.
I open my eyes. Dear God, I feel so rough. I rummage around in my mashed-up, pickled brain through debris of recollection from the night before.
A phone number!
I sit up with a jolt.
My face hurts. I vaguely remember a confrontation with some pissed-up clubber. Maybe he slugged me one and I was too hammered to notice. There are a few bloodstains on my pillow. I go over my notes again. A pretty woman — with a real breast, which I was willingly given access to — a possible fight, a club, a phone number!
I laugh out loud, punching the air.
“YES!!” I bellow. “A FUCKING LIFE!”
Then I remember. My friend! The one who made it all happen….
A panic-stricken adrenaline surge kicks me off my bed. I call out for him. I search frantically. I am almost overwhelmed with gratitude when I see him. He looks in a mess. I must have discarded him in my living room, before I went to bed. I go to him straight away, and lift him so carefully it’s almost regal.
“I’ll put you back together, Humpty Dumpty,” I say smiling. I carefully put him down in a much more comfortable, and appropriate place. I am almost breathless with relief. I exhale and then inhale deeply. The debauchery and toxicity of the preceding night seem to evaporate from my body and soul. I lift my face to the ceiling, close my eyes, and let the good feeling wash over me. I grin at him. “You are the best cure for a hangover I’ve ever had!”
He smiles back at me, his pearly whites almost sparkling from the first dusty rays of the morning sun sneaking in from behind the curtains.
“Let’s go, again, then,” he challenges.
My friend has been away for a few days, and I miss him terribly. I am on my way to meet him now. That very fact has cheered me immeasurably; I am tingling with anticipation. I have decided that I do not like the me I am, when I am not with him. The rat gnaws and gnaws more ferociously than ever.
My friend goes away frequently, nowadays. I have lost lots of weight. I am drinking more; I yearn for him to come back. He completes me. I know this is pitiable and pathetic, and a rip off from a film, but this is the truth. I feel I cannot exist or function now, without him. This is not in the least surprising.
You have never been anything other that a useless waste of space, my cunt of a rat delightedly reminds me.
I know when he goes away, there is a protocol that must be followed to meet up with him again. It’s annoying, it’s expensive, and it means I have to go back to that horrendous dive. But, as a wise man once said, needs must.
The first hints of that wonderful odour welcome me before I even get to the open doors. A couple of scumbags are outside smoking. They stop their conversation as I approach. They give me the once over, and nod towards the door. I have their permission to enter.
I look around, and around, and I do not see the man I need. Panic clutches my chest, squeezing the breath from my lungs. My heart pounds, pounds, pounds, so hard I think it is trying to escape from my body. I rush into the fetid, stinking toilets, almost skidding on some sodden discarded toilet paper on the piss-soaked floor.
Soon, I am on my hands and knees, splashing in the piss, frenziedly searching under the cubicle doors.
He is not here!
I race up to the barman. “Where’s Danny? Where is he?” I pant.
The barman face lights up, but in a not very nice way. “’Danny the fucking dealer’ got arrested this morning!”
“But I need him!” I roar. I feel on the verge of tears. “Please.”
“You have no hope mate. He’s going down for a long stretch. And good fucking riddance, if you ask me.”
His eyes narrow malevolently.
“You won’t find your fix of Charlie, here, anymore, mate,” he spits. “I’m cleaning this shit-hole up, once and for all.”
The realisation hits me, and a leaden-like sadness wrenches me to my disgusting, urine-soaked knees. My head is clasped in despairing, unbelieving hands.
No, no, no!
My Charlie has gone!
The barman jabs an ominous thumb towards the exit.
“So, do us all a favour now, and fuck off out of it,” he snarls.
I feel a tsunami of contempt radiating towards me.
“You filthy junkie scumbag.”