The reason I mentioned all of that sentimental rot about friendship is because I am about to explain about my friendship circle. It is a source of particularly acute embarrassment, hence I ask the considerate reader to be appropriately indulgent.
The compassionate reader will clearly understand that I needed a hefty injection of friendship. I believe I’ve heard various inane platitudes about friendship being the meaning of life and whatnot, and at that time I was prepared to grab ahold of any driftwood floating my way. I figured that seven or eight inane platitudes could be strapped together and perform admirable service as the raft, as it were (speaking in a fashion both metaphoric and, may I say, touchingly poetic), upon which I would float to salvation.
Well. The very first inane platitude that one should detach from the blasted raft of salvation and cast back into the sea with a spit and a curse is: ‘Any port in a storm’. Fucking, I say thee, fucking Percy. Let’s be clear: I was in a bad way. Being a sensitive soul, my rude disruption of a millipede menage-a-trois had induced within me a melancholia of the most profound breed. Then I thought of Percy.
I should, of course, spare a word to explain the phenomenon that is Percival, and being an obliging if not always engaging raconteur, am happy to offer several. Percy, as he seemed to be called, had many years of experience in the field of commercial failure. Perhaps the best that could be said of his credentials is that he had stumbled through one dismal enterprise after the next with admirable consistency. I had first encountered him several years ago on the docks, where he was attempting to make his fortune very quickly and with the least possible effort. The immediate acquisition of wealth was incorporated into all of Percy’s ventures, and it was this impatient hunger which always predicated his failure.
One could justifiably question why I would associate with such a parasite. The answer is simple: Percy was a sincerely likable fellow. His naivety brought forth a benevolent pity which was extremely gratifying, and his witless charm induced an easy affection. Most importantly, the absurd zest with which he embraced his immediate surroundings inspired others around him to forget their own questionable existence. Percy was interested neither in contemplation nor reflection; he wanted to interact with the Now, and was concerned only with his own impending future. It was Percy’s selfishness that inadvertently caused him to become my knight in shining armour: his predatory instinct required resources to exploit. As he had done on several previous occasions, Percy contacted me at a mysteriously propitious time, offered a brief and very sincere apology for not repaying the money I had invested with him two years ago, and inquired as to my interest in joining another venture. I accepted there and then. Far better, I figured, to invest a pittance on a poor wager than to fritter it away on the exigencies of day-to-day living.
Like all pathetically baseless optimists, Percy was overjoyed by my acceptance. There is, I suppose, nothing like a fellow traveller to make one feel better about one’s manifestly obvious insanity. What is it about fellow travellers? Take a person who passes his time jabbing himself with pins to ensure he still understands the concept of ‘pain’ and chuck him in a deep pit: he’ll be miserable and broken. Give him a pitmate who is, at the very least, prepared to refrain from condemning his behaviour, and the pinjabber will be mucking his pants in self-content. What is it about the human spirit which demands some vague reassurance that one need not solely rely upon oneself to get by? Are we so bereft of capability? How fearsome, how destructive the might of doubt! How powerful – and desolate – and impossible, to be sure – the character who can dismiss self-doubt, and do it on a whim, no less. Much as I wanted to blast through my own mortal coil, I succumbed instead to the demands of this fucking organic shell I inhabit: Percy was better than no one.
He had also managed to convince another old friend of his to embark upon his scheme. I did not inquire too deeply into her history: Percy had many acquaintances, and knew very little about any of them – but it was, I felt quite sure, safe to assume she was severely deranged. According to Percy’s laconic account, said friend had foolishly spurned her wealthy benefactors in order to become a self-made woman. Percy advised me that her attempts to put her ‘stupid, dreamland ideas’ into practice had ‘only landed her in trouble’. Of course, I did not question the nature of this trouble: as the well-bred reader will doubtless agree, such enquiries are unnecessarily nosey, and let us not disregard how easily a friendship can be lubricated through sheer ignorance. Galya was her name, and during our first meeting, I found her to be quite amiable, if a little forceful and easily frustrated. She and Percy spent most of the meeting arguing ferociously over insignificant details or engaging in petulant disputes that one appeared to initiate solely to antagonise the other. Nonetheless, it was evident that they appreciated one another’s enthusiasm, and revelled in taking issue with someone over anything. Shortly afterwards, I asked Percy if he did not think Galya’s failure to live up to her own expectations was affecting her mental stability. Percy assured me she was indeed far less capable than she proclaimed, and should be regarded with the greatest suspicion. I thanked him for his timely candour: by that stage I had handed over my meagre savings, and it was too late to withdraw.