The talk never ends. Talk of “being different” or “doing things differently” this time around. The dredging up of the old chestnut, “This year will be different.” What a load of absolute bollocks, Charli (who stopped going by Charlotte not so long ago) mused as she tried not to slump so much on the bench. Where she had been waiting for the past thirty minutes in the freezing cold for the 27 bus bound for Chalk Farm. Needless to say, she was trying to get to Camden Town after the New Year’s Eve party had already started. In fact, it was well after midnight. One might describe Charli as perpetually “late to the party.” Late to move to London (only doing so in her mid-twenties after all her friends from secondary school had done it for university), late to abbreviate her prudish “Christian name” from Charlotte to Charli and, most vitally at this moment, late to get to the fête she had been invited to.
Charli probably shouldn’t have had so much to drink at the company Christmas party. And she couldn’t help but laugh at herself for even trying call it a “company Christmas party”—that made it sound as though she worked in some posh office setting that would furnish an open bar when, in reality, she was outside in an alley drinking from whiskey bottles with her coworkers from Poundland. The thing was, she didn’t stop drinking after they all scattered at an appropriate hour to get to their more worthwhile engagements. Charli couldn’t bring herself to go to hers just yet. For one, she was afraid she’d get there too early and say all the wrong words to Mark, the guy she had been “sort of” seeing these last few months, but who also openly flirted with other girls in front of her. As he likely would be at this party. To endure this, Charli knew she needed to be far more inebriated. We’re talking the kind of inebriated Monica (Martha Plimpton) needed to be in 200 Cigarettes in order to function (by not functioning).
So she went into a few (five) pubs along the way and took advantage of still being young and attractive enough for a number of gross men to offer to pay for her drinks. So many drinks. Maybe it was a bad plan. And if she could think more clearly right now, slumped over on this bus bench, she might be able to scold herself for carrying out such a bad plan. But she couldn’t. All she could focus on were the occasional blinding lights headed her way, and how none of them were the 27 bus. Unless her vision had become so impaired that she missed the bus passing her by. Wouldn’t that be metaphorical? What with everything in life passing her by. She knew she had watched opportunity after opportunity slip through her fingers, and that, soon enough, her existence would be cemented as it was: working at the Poundland and accepting drinks from equally as washed-up men at the pub. Solidifying her status as the “bitter B” (read: bitch) most people her viewed her as.
Charli started to wonder if it could all somehow be related to her cynicism about New Year’s. Her refusal to succumb to the pressure of offering up saccharine resolutions about “changing.” Couldn’t they all see what gits they were for spouting such naively hopeful “ambitions”? Not just the cliché promises of losing weight or staying sober, but even the more vague, prayer-like resolutions to “become a better person” or “be kinder to others.” What planet were they living on? There was no being “better,” no chance of being “kind”—at least not if one wanted to survive in this hostile environment. Evidently, nobody wanted to acknowledge that it was hostile; and to shroud that hostility, they needed to cling to their delusions of wanting to be “good” at the beginning of each year—after a previous year spent being their usual horrible and debauched human selves. Yet, so long as one feigned “goodness” for the first couple weeks (or days) of January, they could revert right back to old behaviors (it was all very Catholic). A cycle that would rinse and repeat until this whole disgusting world went kabluey. And of course it would. It had to. Humans were the most self-destructive species ever to hatch on this Earth. They were bound to invoke their demise sooner or later. And it was looking more like “sooner” by the day.
Oh shit, was that the bus? Charli honestly couldn’t tell one vehicle from another at this juncture. Her vision was so blurred that it was all a giant blob of bright white lights. Maybe this is what it looked like just before you died, and that’s why they were constantly urging dying people to “go into the light.” Is that what she should do? Right here, right now. “Surrender to the pleasure,” as Madonna once said. She could have been talking about death as much as sex. They both offered a climax (sex often less than death).
Charli started to make an attempt at rising from the bench—resulting only in falling back down. But not back onto the “comfort” of the hard bench, so much as the discomfort of the brutally hard (and wet) pavement. She was going to feel that in a few hours, she reckoned. What she couldn’t feel at this point, however, was anything akin to reason. That’s probably why she got up abruptly, left her purse (its contents now scattered everywhere) on the ground and proceeded, for no “purpose” whatsoever, to stumble directly into the oncoming traffic. Which, funnily enough, included the 27 bus that had passed two times already in the many minutes she had been waiting at the stop.
Lying there, flattened on the asphalt, Charli did have a brief instant of clarity, a “flash of sobriety,” if you will. One that led her to titter to herself as she realized that she actually had become a “changed” person for the New Year. The alchemy of her exposed innards spilling onto her exterior provided a liberating sense of finally feeling at one with the rest of humanity’s year-end/year-start delusions. Because she could presently believe in the power of the New Year to somehow magically render you as “different,” fundamentally “transformed.” That she certainly was. Maybe, just maybe, no longer the same B after all.