He was always going on about being a “functional adult.” As though it were something one could just “be.” Lilith had tried for many years to be one, but, at the age of twenty-eight, her attempts were still to no avail. Perhaps there was something about her aura that screamed to “real” functioning adults, “Don’t let her in the club!” Some fucking club. Who would want to participate in anything where the basic tenets of what’s expected of you require spending most of your time doing things you hate for money that barely affords the most rudimentary of living conditions? Particularly in a city like London.
And this—doing things you hate for money—is expected to be done for practically twenty-four hours a day. At least when factoring in commute length and the psychological space occupied in one’s mind for fixating on work even during the so-called off hours. It was therefore a waking nightmare, not a rite of passage, to be a “functional adult.” So forgive Lilith if she wasn’t all that offended when her childhood best friend-turned-boyfriend lorded his “functioning” adulthood over her. Which was happening more and more ever since he had gotten a promotion at work and an according salary bump. God, how middle-class did you have to be to get excited about such a thing? Like it was truly the apex of achievement in life as opposed to, oh, self-actualization. Which capitalist society run by “functioning adults” claims one can’t transcend toward without money anyway.
Seeing Aaron all juiced up about the raise—a paltry five thousand pounds more a year for the price of his soul—was enough to make Lilith want to break up with him. It was so clearly not going to work out. Yet part of her wanted to stay in the relationship just to see how bad it could get (you know, sort of like watching a car crash in real time). To prove that Aaron would eventually have to break up with her, ergo validating Lilith’s belief that a Joey and Dawson kind of love is no match for an unignorable class divide, typically driven by an underlying ideological divide. Class. That’s what conquers all. And then kills it.
So, for the time being, Lilith would play the part of obsequious girlfriend. Take the heat from Aaron for being “lesser than” because she spent her days writing poetry in parks and museums and coffee shops. What Aaron called “a real waste” of her days because it didn’t make any money. And to not make money was to be a waste oneself. Especially in the eyes of somebody as societally brainwashed as Aaron. Lilith was indeed starting to question if maybe she was only really staying with Aaron to observe him as a sociological curiosity. Or maybe it was her own case study of how to become one of those Functioning Adults that Aaron and his ilk were always going on about. Maybe enough vigilant observation would prompt the osmosis she needed to imitate this lot.
But again, she had to ask herself: why would I want to become this anyway? The thought of surrendering her carefree, barely-getting-by existence as a broke poet living on the kindness of friends and Aaron sounded horrendous. And slightly insane. The more she thought about it, the more she realized it was the Functioning Adults that tried to make the non-functioning ones feel “crazy” because it was actually they who embodied that word. By agreeing to adhere, so dogmatically, to such a fucked-up system. Living out their days in misery for the sake of paying taxes and getting roughly twenty-eight days of vacation time amid three hundred and sixty-five days in a year. Madness. Sheer absurdity. And yet, here Lilith was wanting to prove herself to Aaron for some reason. That she could rake in the big money just as well, if not better, than he could.
As far as Lilith was concerned, there were no real “rules” about what type of job you needed as a Functioning Adult, so long as it yielded high dividends. Even being a lowly cashier at a grocery store wouldn’t be deemed degrading if it actually made money. Alas, it did not. Nor did any service-oriented job title. Save for one. The oldest profession. And still the most tried-and-true. Lilith had considered doing it for several years now, and she felt she was “passing” well enough to be perceived as in her early twenties in order to be successful at it. She knew she didn’t have to walk the streets anymore like in the old days. That everything was done online now, and you didn’t even have to actually touch some gross bastard in person. By the same token, what was the point of doing it if she wasn’t going to roll up her sleeves and get her hands dirty (and probably her pussy too)? This being London, there were plenty of viable blocks and corners to stand on looking like a prostitute. Even the ever-waning-in-red-light-district cachet Soho. It took a few months for Lilith to find her footing, so to speak, but eventually she carved out a nice, relatively safe whoring niche for herself. All the while, Aaron seemed oblivious, barely noticing that she was dressing in much more expensive garments of late, or that she had taken a shine to wearing lingerie while doing simple house tasks.
Having gotten a taste of what it was like to have so much cash at her disposal, Lilith could feel herself going to the dark side. Worse still, she hadn’t written a single poem since she started working. It was scaring her. The power that making money suddenly had over her. Had she at last, then, transformed into a Functional Adult—or rather, a Fucktional Adult? That is, now that her sole obsession was with making more money and using all her time to secure it. She got her answer one evening when she returned home with evidence of the job all over her: smeared lipstick, smudged mascara, ripped stockings, blood dripping out of her crotch. She had dealt with a particularly violent john. And it had brought her back down to Earth about what she was doing. How she kept taking on extra work (read: dick) even though she had enough money to contribute to the rent and the groceries now, and that was all she really needed. Aaron was pleased for about two months of her contributions before he started to grow suspicious about how she was getting the money.
Lilith had claimed she got a job at a pub, and Aaron bought it at first… until noticing more and more that something about her had fundamentally shifted. Most markedly in the bedroom, where she never wanted to have sex anymore. Her disheveled appearance tonight had confirmed his long-feared theory: she was prostituting herself. But when he came at her with that accusation, she snapped back, “Aren’t we all? Isn’t that what it is to be an adult? A functioning adult? Isn’t that what you wanted from me?”
Aaron replied softly, “No, no. I… not like this.”
“Like what, then? What is a girl supposed to do to make money when her only talent is in the arts? Huh?”
Aaron remained mute.
Lilith continued, “It’s not as though they’re doling out a thousand quid a pop for a poem, now is it?”
Staring at her coldly, he finally said, “No, it’s not.” With that, he retreated into their bedroom and closed the door.
“That’s it?” she called out. “No more palpable disappointment? No chastising me about how I should stop?”
There was no answer. Sometimes, silence is the answer. And Lilith knew that Aaron’s meant he still looked down on her as someone who couldn’t function “appropriately” in society. No, she had to be more miserable at a more imprisoning, aboveboard job. Well she wouldn’t do it. Grabbing her recently-purchased Dolce & Gabbana fur coat off the back of the couch, she decided to go out again. Never mind a quick crotch-washing—she knew she could still get a “date” regardless. This would be the one to give her all the money she needed to break out on her own. She wouldn’t have to live with Aaron anymore, and he could stop judging her all the time for every choice she made (or didn’t make). Because she was damned if she did and damned if she didn’t. Better to be on her own then, it was decided.
Spotting a well-dressed man approaching her usual corner, she stuck her leg out suggestively and lit a cigarette. What she liked best about this job was how little communication it actually required. The less talking, the better, she found. The man, who had stubble and jet-black hair, prompted her to give him the internal nickname, Jet. Men never wanted to tell you their real name anyway, ashamed they were there in the first place. After some cursory business talk, they went into the hotel she had grown fond of using. The manager there was non-judgmental, and there was never anyone around. It was all very low-profile. The perfect place to be fucked anonymously. And killed anonymously, too. Something Lilith hadn’t accounted for during this session or any other—foolishly giving men the benefit of the doubt regarding their inherent “goodness.”
But how could anyone—least of all a “functioning adult”—be good when they were subjected to these stifling expectations? These societally-imposed edicts for how to “be.” This was something Lilith only had a brief amount of time to ponder as Jet bloodied her face into oblivion, getting his rocks off from punching her repeatedly as he came. Had she lived, she might have gotten the money she thought she needed. But as it turned out, she was right all along: making money is for the birds. An idiom, incidentally, that derived from use in the U.S. Army, a reference to birds pecking at horse shit in the hope of finding seeds. That’s what it was to chase down money all one’s life. To be a functioning adult.