As Good As It Gets. By Martin Friel.
So this was it? Was this what people did with their lives or had he missed something? Five days in the office followed by two on the couch, watching insipid TV as the hours and his life slipped by. Living with a woman that he did not love but would not leave. Surrounded by routine, repetition and resignation it is easy to lose track of time as you barrel down the hill towards middle age and mediocrity. The pub can still the momentum for a while but as time goes by and friends move on, gradually you realise that you drink alone more often than not and, as you drink, around you cavorts youth and hope and possibility, as you sit, alone, surrounded by nothing but cigarette smoke and ever-distant memories.
It had not always been so. He had grown up convinced of his own unique standing in life, a future that promised nothing concrete but quiet and assured greatness. What that was to be, he did not know, but there had always been a feeling of entitlement. Perhaps it had something to do with his late father who had always told him he was special simply because he was his son. He had grown up believing it and the early years of his adulthood had indicated that it was indeed true.
He had left school with top marks without much effort; an honours degree had been secured without much attention to attendance; he found himself running a nightclub at the age of 22, a position secured with little outward effort. It all looked so rosy he felt he had achieved quite a bit in 25 years with little input from himself. The world surely was to be his oyster.
It was with this vain confidence that he upped sticks and moved to the capital, sure that something would come up. At first the lack of something did not trouble him unduly. Time would take care of that. But as the time moved on, he found himself standing still; nothing seemed to happen anymore. No longer surrounded by indulgent friends, he found that his right to success was but a mirage. One demeaning, low-paid job after another brought him lower to the ground, towards his own reality. But still, it was only a small stumbling block. Things would work out.
Eventually, he decided to actually take some proactive steps towards securing the future that he felt was his right. An expensive loan and masters degree later, he was back in the big smoke ready to claim his place amongst the great and not-so good. At first it worked. He felt good about himself for the first time in years. He felt important in his new role in the City; sharp suits, sharp words. However, as the euphoria died down, he realised that he was in the same position as before dull job, dull surroundings, dull woman, dull friends. Even after he had actually made some effort, things had become different but had remained the same in so many ways.
And so he found himself back in the same bar, avoiding the same questions he always asked of himself. He looked around at the other drinkers as he sat at the bar. The phone vibrated in his pocket. He looked at the name it was her. He sighed and put it back in his pocket as it slowly vibrated and eventually died. He looked up again and saw around him nothing but waste. Surely they couldnt all actually be happy in their lives. Surely theirs was a false hope powered by drink. But at least they still had the hope for a better future. All he felt was dejection and waste; disappointment and atrophy. So this was it? Maybe he had expected too much. Maybe some people just have to accept their lot. This idea struck a cold fear into him. Was he really one of the rabble? Was he just to accept his lot? He pondered the thought and ordered a large whisky. Downing it, he looked up at the clock. It told him that time was soon to be called. He sank the whisky and ordered another as it dawned on him that this really was it. This was as good as it was going to get for him. He noticed a tear hit his newspaper. Wiping his face clear, he paid for the whisky telling the young man behind the bar get yourself one, and enjoy it. This may be as good as it gets.
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