A Friend at the End of the World

"I don't know. This is going to sound weird, but doesn't it sometimes feel like the world is ending?"

That's Eric. We're in his mother's apartment since she's away for the weekend and he's invited me over because he hates being alone.  I haven't seen him in a while and I haven't been in this apartment in years, so it feels like a reunion of sorts. He's pouring the gigantic bottle of cheap wine that I brought into two fine glasses and his collection of rare 90s hip-hop is playing in the background, this time something by Mya that was only released in Japan. It's one of the first nice days in a long time and the sun, which has been missing for two weeks now, is finally shining, so that at this early evening hour there are still red beams coming in from the west and the sky remains a deep infallible blue.  We've known each other since high-school, which is before the downward spiraling and the crystal meth and the rehab. Now he's doing much better. He insists he is and it looks like it, too, and he talks with the dark comedy of that pre-everything Eric I remember from high school and from the earlier college years.

"I don't know, it's like! Our government is falling apart, and the sea levels are rising, and then you see people come into the shop"— He works at a café—"with their kids and in my head I'm just like, why did you have children? Don't you know the end is near?" He laughs. And I laugh, too. I tell him I know what he means, and I do.

It does sometime feel like the world is reeling toward collapse. But then it must have felt worse when Rome was sacked by the goths, or when half of your city was dead in a month because of plague, or when London was being shelled out by the Germans.  These aren't the best of times, but they're not the worst either. At least not here, in a docile New England suburb.

"How's the new job." He's dancing, and he has on the size 12 platform heels he only wears around the house and after a few drinks. He's a character.

"It's just temp, really. Not into it, but I'm still applying here and there, wherever… you know. No bites so far,"  I say. Actually I am really not into it and partly regret quitting my old job, but those things usually feel too embarrassing for me to to reveal to even the closest, oldest friends.

"How's James?"

"Hes' good!" I say, and elaborate a bit. James has been my boyfriend for two months now, a relationship that started in the most improbable of ways (which is to say not through a hookup app).  He is affectionate and when he holds my hand in public I get nervous and excited at the same time.

Eric says it gives him hope when he sees us. His drunken sentimentality makes me smile. On the television above the mantle in the living room a muted CNN panel goes on about the president and his "addiction to Twitter". In the kitchen Eric switches the music to the new Mary J. Blige album. I think of how a year ago so many things about this reality would have seemed ridiculous and how now those same things just seem frightening or unsettling. But we're here, in the room, laughing and thinking about High School and gossiping like we used to. Of course it isn't like the old days anymore, but it doesn't feel like the end of days.

"I love this album." he says to me, a beatific smile on his face. "I can't wait to move out of here in september and I already saw this place in Porter square—well not in the square but you know, near it— and…" He continues. He has a vision for his future self that he is ready to execute and it's nice to see him like that, looking ahead and moving forward with his life. It makes me happy after everything he's been through.

Even if the world really is ending.


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