You should know that there is some foul language below.
Lucy and Tad clambered in the backseat, and you could tell that they’d already grown tired of each other. As it happens, Sam, or rather serious Sam, was at the time pretty fixated on Lucy, which made sense for a lot of reasons. One is that this Sam was always plagued by regret, and apparently Lucy was at one point interested in him and the feeling wasn’t mutual. Also, she had a quality of goodness that was challenging, i.e., made you feel bad about yourself as a human being, but wasn’t exactly overbearing. So the self-flagellating quasi-post-Catholic in Sam perhaps responded to that. Lucy was a subtle self-sacrificer, but not a professional martyr. She radiated goodness without being saccharine. She was also funny, and of course quite pretty, but in a slightly horsey and unobvious way. Out of loyalty to Sam I had to not be thrilled with Tad, who actually seemed quite winning and likable, if not exactly the sharpest tack in the box. He wasn’t really one of us, but he gamely semi-bantered and didn’t slow down the conversation too much. Lucy was sweet to him mostly, but you could tell she was kind of cringing the whole time. I mean, we’re a tough crowd. Imogen was, characteristically, totally shitty to him, despite the fact that she coupled with vastly more dubious beaus. Who could take her seriously anyway? Certainly not at that point. But it’s true that she was at her most amusing when she was at her most horrible (we called her “The Viper”), though maybe that reflects poorly on us, or on me.
I actually knew Imogen thanks (“thanks”) to Lucy, because strangely they were quite close as undergrads, despite being different in all of the obvious ways. Lucy drew people in through her combination of seemingly omnidirectional niceness that masked a lot of wit and discerning judgment. She gave off a particular warmth to men, who found her boyish and accessible as well as a womanly girlfriend-surrogate: one felt really liked and even cared for in her orbit. What a rare and nice (if a little fake) quality to have. Lucy could also be disarmingly honest, like when she quite inexplicably called me a misogynist. Remember, this is the sweetest woman in the world, so it came as a sucker punch. Maybe there was something to it. Anyway, Imogen was also really complicated, but she was a somewhat more recognizable archetype: foxy and mean, to be brief. And so terrifyingly smart. I wasn’t at school with them, but Sam was and, inevitably, we had crossed paths and knew millions of people in common, which mostly struck me as embarrassing. A small world is one thing, but despite all my efforts I found myself in what was essentially a tiny womb of overeducated, undernourished assholes. What fun.
Which is, anyway, why I had taken the perhaps dramatic step of emigrating from the United States. That was how I very self-consciously and deliberately thought of it.
Anyway, here I was in this tropical paradise, making a pretty good go of it considering, surrounded by friends, feeling healthy and not cripplingly depressed. Apart from Lucy and Tad and Imogen, my core guy friends – Trevor, Pete, and Haroun, the ones I think of as my official or de jure best friends who are also my actual best friends – also made the trek for New Year’s. This was New Year’s Eve 2010, the end of our familiar, defining decade. Most of us were in jobs that didn’t exist in 2000. Tom Chang, Pete’s older brother, was shot in the face and killed in a war that looked to be finally winding down. We grew up IMing each other with emoticons and shit. I mean, our era was retarded, but it was ours and I at least was feeling the slow onset of obsolescence, not least because all I knew how to do was code widgets for dying social network sites. I swear, it seemed like a really smart career move at the time. But foreboding aside, I did feel pretty loved, for lack of a better word. I mean, I have serious limitations as a human being, but I always felt like this gang reflected well on me, and here they were, making the massive and not-cheap trek to see their dropout friend. The cockles of my heart were warmed.
Being kind of unadventurous by nature, I mainly mixed with other expat types. Expat types who weren’t a million-years-old. Who could speak English. Obviously they were all potheads, which was alright with me in light of their narrow purpose: making out, making me feel smart by comparison, etc. Now that I had my real friends, though, I avoided them like the plague, including public health Olivia, who I actually did like quite a lot. I felt affirmed, and I suppose I was worried about what my “real friends” would think about my local friends. Or maybe I didn’t want my “real friends” to know my local friends thought really, really highly of me, practically an invitation to total deflation at the hands of Imogen and Haroun (The Underminer).
Why Imogen was there at all was a bit of a mystery. I mean, at the most obvious level she was with Lucy, which was fine, but of course Tad was also there. She broke up with her miscellaneous boyfriend, who was a little younger and apparently some kind of not-successful art-type. Totally her. She’d been kind of at sea since the family fortune dried up in late ’08, dropped out of grad school, dabbled (like all of us) in some high-tech content play, even hand-modeling, bizarrely. A lot of odd jobs. I had this strange notion that I could talk her into staying. Then I thought better of it. Then I thought, well, we’re the only fuck-ups left, right? But she’d never.
So imagine my surprise when we were all devoured by zombies!