Teens & Young Adult Friendship Drama

There was a time when words mattered. They were expensive. Writing was maybe cheap on paper. But editing, printing, distribution, exposure. Not everyone could write. Talent, connections, and money, that’s what defined writers. Nowadays, everyone can shitpost on Twitter and make a name for themselves. Create a following. Be a part of a cult. The threshold for opinions has been obliterated.

And here I am, trying to shape words into something that matters, something that is more than a commodity. Just wasting my time.

Josephine rested her head between her hands and stared down at a lined piece of paper with three words: I have seen..

Seen what? Where? Why? How? What was the purpose of all of this? For life, essentially, she was nothing more than a pile of meat wrapped in skin walking around, consuming air and natural resources waiting to be wiped out by time so no one would remember her. Sure, her friends and family would remember her. Until they were also dead. And then everyone else. Whole generations, billions of people would just be, gone. Nothing. Their only meaning for humanity for the rest of conscious time would be as statistics that scientists and pundits could use as benchmarks for irrelevant points.

She knew. She knew that the end was coming and that all of humanity would be wiped out. The whole planet, the whole solar system would become a fire-torn hellscape. Sure, it’s a couple of billion years in the future. But in the grand scheme of things, with the eternity of time being, well, long, what was a couple of billion years but a blink of an eye? Death was coming. And here I am… trying to shape words into something meaningful.

She leaned back, picked up her phone, and doom-scrolled through news, Twitter feeds, and snapshots of fake ideal worlds from lifestyle influencers on Instagram. After 30 minutes of nonsense, increased anxiety, and envy of the thousands of likes that some girl doing yoga on a beach got with the caption “live your life to the fullest” she shut down all the apps. Fuck them, fuck all of them.

Josephine called Rob. It took him 7 beeps before he answered. Fuck him.


“It’s all going to hell. Everything.”


“It’s always going to hell. Why do people use Twitter? Insane people shitposting opinions about things they have no idea about. And Instagram! Where everything is awesome and perfect.”

“Stop using it then” She could hear him tap away at his keyboard. Writing some code probably. He earned mountains of cash each month. More than she did in a year. Fuck him.

“It’s not my fault. These apps are designed to make me addicted you know? Evil algorithms that exploit our brains. What’s next? Gimme that shit, that dopamine. I’m a drug user Rob, it’s a condition. I’m sick.”

“I’ve known that you're sick from the first time I met you.”

“We were like five!”

“Yup, I knew. Everyone knew. Jos, you dressed up Mr. Whiskers as Charles Manson for Halloween.”

“So what? It’s perfectly normal if you have some sense of what the world is like.”

“What do you want Jos?”

“I need to drink. And you need to drink with me.”

Rob sighed on the other end of the phone. “I’m working Jos, for like, a lot more hours.”

“Working is just a path for your corporate overlords to steal your time and then you’re dead. Dead Rob, for like, a lot more hours than being at work. We’re all going to die.” “Jos..”

“I’m not taking no for an answer. Jimmie’s, thirty minutes. Say your sick or something.”

There was a long pause. “One hour.”

“No, half an hour.”

“I’ll be there in one hour.”

“Greedy bastard.”

“Thank you Jos, see you in an hour. Don’t call me in 35 minutes because I’m not there and you are lonely.”

“Can’t promise.”

“You call me before I am there and I will turn around.”

Call me before I’m there and I will turn around” She mimicked him like a child and hung up.

Josephine changed her underwear, they were probably past their best-before date anyway and she dressed for minor success. Not long ago, she had gained a few grown-up points by changing her wardrobe from offensive depression to a minor disappointment. She had realized that the first style had done her no favors in gaining internships at publishers. Josephine had got one offer at a queer communist revolutionary underground publisher that she tried for a few weeks. But at some point, she just felt that they were too optimistic. They actually believed. She imagined that working for a ‘real’ publisher would grant her access to what she needed to explode as a Russian depressionist supernova.

At a show and tell in 7th grade she made a PowerPoint of her life plan in a very detailed timeline. She would outcompete the great Russian pessimist author Mikhail Lermontov before she was 18. Life did not turn out that way. She had deviated heavily from the timeline by drafting hundreds of first pages but only on rare occasions managed to get to a third page. Josephine had tried poetry as a way out. Maybe I can do spoken word. They are all depressed and desperate anyway. How hard can it be? She tried, and did fairly well by the reactions from the audience but, at the post-mingle, it was as if the onslaught of existential angst that she had forced down the throats of the audience had not stuck to them like a psychotic needy stalker boyfriend with no respect for authorities. No, instead they drank for pleasure, they laughed.

She enrolled at a community college in creative writing. There she produced prose that some would call finished products with a beginning, a middle, and an end. But they were a far cry from her vision of ruining people’s hope and making them understand the futility of life. Resistance is futile. Why didn’t anyone cheer for the Borg?

Josephine arrived at Jimmie’s Corner Bar half an hour later by bike and went inside. She liked Jimmie’s. The first thing that hit you was the luke warm smell of rejected dreams. It was a place where, mostly middle-aged men, found each other and strengthen their resolve to not have any more ambitions. “Hey Jimmie”, she nodded at Jimmy. Jimmie nodded back.

“Hey Jos, how’s life?”

“About to come to an end,” she replied.

“Great, so same as last week?”

“Same as every week”

“Your mother called.”

She sighed. “She still hopes that I will go through a wonderful metamorphosis and turn into a career woman with a nice husband so she can get grandchildren. Dad is still disappointed.”

“Still paying your bills?”

“Shut up”

Jimmie smirked. Josephine nodded to the usual morning patrons that by early afternoon, Jimmie would throw out. They would then sway back and forth along the sidewalks to get home. She sat down in her usual booth, took out her phone, and opened the notepad app. Jimmie came not soon after and served her the cheapest lager he had. During one of her “inspirational binges,” she invented her own index; APD. Alcohol Per Dollar. Jimmies cheapest beer had a great APD score. She began writing in the app. There was a time when words mattered... 20 minutes later, no more words had been added.

Rob arrived, waved at Josephine, ordered some expensive American Pale Ale, and sat down opposite her. She put her phone away, crossed her arms, and leaned forward on the table. “Bad APD on that one,” she said. Rob lifted the glass and looked at it, “But pretty tasty” he replied and took a sip.

“Why don’t you fuck me anymore?”

“Because you cry and complain about my performance every time.”

She leaned back and looked at the bar. “Whatever. I’m a great fuck.”

“No Jos, not really.” He took another sip.

“How do you know? All you do is tap on your keyboard and make code code code” She frowned and made her childish voice again.

“You know I go on dates, lots of them.”


“Do you want me to fuck you again?”

“No, but that’s not the point. The point is, why don’t you want it.” She took a large gulp of her beer.

“Is that why we’re here, to discuss your sex life?”

She was silent, looked him straight into his eyes, and then suddenly raised her hands, tilted back her head, widened her eyes, and shaped her fingers into guns, shaking them wildly.

“Ho, ho, we’re not aloneee Rob, we’re not alone!”

“You do the worst Nicolas Cage impressions. Even with your own made-up quotes.” She frowned and sat back. “Fuck you.”

“Jos, you’re overdoing it. When he does the priest scene in Face Off, he acts crazy but with panache

Josephine raised her eyebrows and nodded with approval. “Since when do you know the word panache?”

“Since yesterday, Wikipedia,” Rob replied and drank more.

“Well look at you,” She mildly clapped her hands and took another big gulp.

“It’s not even twelve Jos,” Rob said.

“So, it’s not like I have anywhere to be or do or whatever.” She dunked her head on the table and left it there. Her dark hair spread out like a black velvet peacock.

“So, writing isn’t going well.. again?”

“No, it’s fucking not, you know, it’s so hard, soo hard” She flung her head up and her hair grazed Rob’s face.

“Like, you know, it’s Twitter this Twitter that, fucking, fuckedily fuck fuck create insane cult followings and then you get published. No one wants to read anymore Rob, it’s all piecemeal, it’s all like, fast food content to blow your mind with shit that goes up your nose and down your ass and out into the world, and then, then you get a bazillion likes and theeen you end up on CNN or Fox and book deals and ooh the red carpet how good for you. Or you write some shit teenage angst sex depression about a young boy and/or girl who finds out that they are special and that the whoole world depends on them saving it from some crazy lunatic that didn’t get enough hugs as a kid.

She poured the rest of her beer down her throat.

“You know I think Harry Potter is just seven books about J.K Rowling wishing she had a dick. Like, everyone has a wand Rob, and without a wand, you ain’t shit Rob, you ain’t shit without a wand.”

Rob yawned. “You done?”

“No Rob, I’m not fucking donee.” She waved at Jimmie to bring her another beer.

“Do you know that we’re all going to die? And I’m not talking about us as like now, but like all of us, everyone ever, and then boom, the sun explodes and wipes out everything. Even our memories. Just gone. And the aliens, you know, we’re not alone” Josephine made the funny voice again. “The truth is out there man” She waved her arm, nearly hitting Jimmie as he served her another beer.

“The aliens won’t find shit.”

“So?” Rob replied and arrived at the point where the traditional fist-fighting argument over whether the glass is half full or half empty usually started.

“How can you be so glass is half full all the time?!”

“Jos, you know that you are a cliche right?”

“No, I’m not. I got it all figure out, I can see people, Rob, I see everything” She leaned forward and pointed at her eye.

“Yeah, everything but yourself. You’re a spoiled 20-something woman-child who is so desperate after meaning since you never had to do anything to get anything. You have been bitching about your writing forever and always blaming everyone else that you’re not some kind of famous depression evangelist that everyone calls when they need an amateur alcoholic to tell people about what life is really like.”

“Fuck you, Rob, fuck. you.”

“You think that you’re the first person to ‘see life’?”

“Of course not, the Russians figured it out long ago.”

“How about you actually follow in Dostoevsky’s footsteps then and live in a gulag for eight years?” Rob was annoyed.

Josephine looked at him. His dark eyes. His sort of tanned skin. His black rugged hair. His lips.

“Why did your parents name you Rob anyway? Shouldn’t you be called Jeong or something?” She gulped from her beer.

“Ah cute Jos, cute. Racism before lunch. I’m glad I’m here.” he finished his APA and waved at Jimmie. “Do you have some nice IPA?”

“Maybe Bell’s Brewery Two Hearted Ale?”

“Haven’t tried, let’s do that one.”

Jimmie brought a bottle and a glass.

“I’m not a racist, I’m just saying.”

“No, you’re not. You’re spoiled and you’d rather say something mean or strange than just face the truth, you’re not that special Jos. You’re just like every person ever who needed life to be about something more than nothing.” He poured the beer into the glass, the foam was perfect. Just in level with the edges.

“Whatever Rob, like you’ve had it hard. So hard. Korean parents and now you’re a coder swimming in money.”

She frowned, raised her beer, drank from it but sort of tried to hide behind the glass.

“More than you at least, yeah, my parents worked hard to give me opportunities so I owe them. You just got opportunities on credit without a payback plan… Like, Jos, you’re 23 and your dad is still paying for you. And not because he wants to. He just does it. He’s like a feeder to your fat angst.”

“So what?!” She exploded. “I’m full of angst, that’s me, the angst girl, so fucking angsty!”

“That’s not even a word” Rob replied.

“Now it is, I’m fucking Shakespeare, shaping half the English language out of nothing. Angsty, it’s a verb and an adjective at the same time.” she waved her arms like a French God draped in gold that just entered a 70s dance floor.

“Whatever Jos. I should get back to work.” he spun his glass and drank from it. Josephine fiddled with her fingers for a while. There was a shared silence between them. She looked at him again, peering out through her hair.

“Why, don’t you love me anymore?”

Rob sighed. “I’ve always loved you, and always will. But you’re a fucking pain in the ass Jos.”

She smiled slightly. “What do you love about me?”

He looked at her and gave her an unwilling smile. “I do coding because I happened to be good at it, my life is okay. Your life is shit. It’s always shit. It’s like that if it’s not shit, you’ll go out and make it shit. Break your leg. Quit your job. Fuck, you walked out of an art exhibition raging that the colors were too bright for ‘real’ art.”

He took a big gulp.

“How can I not love that?”

“So.. " she twirled her hair.

“So what?”

“Why don’t you date me again?”

He laughed. “Dating you is like bringing home up a coked up lost and found cat and leaving it alone for three days. We tried that, I can’t do it.”

“Why are you here then?”

He looked at her. Thought. Time passed. “I guess maybe I’m hoping that one day you will be less catastrophic depression and more.. just less. Why don’t you date someone else? Do you want to date me again?” He drank more.

She stuck her tongue out. “Because, because, Other people are just aliens. They don’t get me. No sir, I found my prince and he’s right here. He should save me!”

“You don’t want to be saved. You want an enabler.”

“Yeah so? What’s so bad about that huh?” She finished her second beer and waved in her third.

“Well, for one, you’re on your third beer, trying hard to into the big leagues of alcoholism. Not great for your Tinder profile.”

She looked at her third beer. “Maybe this is my last beer? Huh? Maybe I’ve changed since you came in. Maybe I do want you to fuck me.”

Rob laughed out loud, attracting the attention of the other patrons.

“The fuck you have Jos.” he smiled and finished his beer. “I have to go now, Jos..” she looked at him. Those dark eyes that drew him in 20 years ago. That made him give her flowers when she wanted dismembered dolls. “Yeah?”

“Why don’t you just write about whatever, like your day, your whole social media rant? Like, just stop trying so hard to be original. Can you do that for me? Jos, for me?”

She didn’t want to. Every cell in her body wanted to fly away from any type of writing commitment to anyone else. It shouldn't be for anyone but for the truth, her truth. The true truth about life.

“Maybe..” she said.

“You want us to try again? For real, then you do this for me.” there was truth in his eyes. Sharp. He left. She sat there with her phone. She fought her fingers. Took a deep breath. There was a time when words mattered…

...they were expensive. Writing was cheap perhaps on paper. But editing, printing, distribution - it was expensive. Not everyone could write. Talent, connections, and money, that’s what paved the way for the aspiring writer...

August 10, 2023 13:26

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

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