The world had changed, at least the bit of it that surrounded Chris had and he hadn’t noticed until now. In the same way that you don’t notice children growing up until you look at the marks and dates on the door frame where you ritually measured them off every year, it was only in long casted moments of reflection that he realised the problem. The world had moved on and he hadn’t, didn’t want to or maybe just couldn’t. Even most of his friends had dwindled away, not that they had ever been a great number, never one for the laddish pack animal mentality that came with sports and nightclubbing and the gang loyalty that came as part of the package. And now his single lifestyle was at odds with the child rearing couples whose focus was dinner parties, barbeques and family day trips to parks and beaches, and so he slipped further out of the social circle. Once he used to say that it is okay to be alone, alone was not the same as feeling lonely. Now he just felt lonely.
“Same again?” asked the barman, his nodded reply made him realise that he could order drinks from virtual strangers without even resorting to speech, yet the people who had known him for years still didn’t really understand him. He looked around the bar. The same faces in the same seats, having variations of the same conversations and the same drinks. Chris was bored. Bored with the routines, the small world he inhabited, the predictability of the people he encountered, but more tellingly, himself. He was bored with what he had become, or more realistically what he couldn’t be bothered not to become.
In his defence he had worked hard at the game that the powers that be had hoodwinked him into thinking was his best option. The years of nine to five, the magpie like ownership of all the shiny objects that flash across the TV between the reality cop shows and the latest brain dead quizzes, the savings in the bank. But when he had finally got to that once mythical realm of self-sufficiency; house ownership, self-employment and savings – all the things that he was led to believe would set him free – he didn’t recognise the place or himself anymore. Where was the young agitator who was going to make a difference, start the revolution, and change the world? The world had changed all right but it was not of his doing and far from leading that charge, a wave of fresh thinking to crash over the barricades of convention, he found he was left behind, sat in a bar at 6 o’clock on a Tuesday evening wondering when his fire had gone out.
But then the world had never been quite as he imagined it. To his mind it had more depth, more artistic quality, more richness or so he was happy to delude himself. But for every rare discussion about the works of Camus or Noam Chomsky, every nice meal in a bohemian restaurant, every moment spent in a pop-up art gallery, a hundred other occasions were filled with nights leaning on a fairly non descript bar listening to someone he barely knew waxing fairly non-lyrically at him in the deluded opinion that he cared about their problems. The post divorce child visiting rights, what medical benefits this wicked government had deprived them of, what the score was of any given sports fixture that had taken place that week; this was not the world he wanted to be in. On the other side of the coin though, when he did find himself in more highbrow company he felt a fraud. He might have rows of books by Genet and DeQuincey, Laurence Sterne and Anton Chekov, but he more than likely had picked up most of his knowledge on Wikipedia. As much as he made a great public show of pointing out the literary failings of popular writers such as Dan Brown or “that Game of Thrones guy” (it doesn’t pay to seem too familiar with their work) he had read them all, and if the truth was known had enjoyed them much more than anything he had attempted by any beat writer, philosopher or literary giant. Of course it always paid to keep a few stock quotes to hand, such as Capotes swipe at Kerouac’s style as being merely typing; once you had that and had seen the movie, in his opinion the work was done.