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Apocalypse Now

by Jacob Seferian

horseman i. FAMINE

The bagels suck here. I am sitting at a bar in New Orleans either on a date with a stranger or waiting for someone to talk to me. I have been struggling to make new friends, or maybe I am making new friends but have forgotten what the process feels like. Nobody in this city is loud enough or cares about Architectural Digest celebrity home tours: I am lost.

I’ve gained thirty pounds but my mind feels emaciated. This gauntness is exemplified when I interpret my Southern roommate saying, “I’m not really into Natasha Lyonne” as anti-semetic. At least I can drink outside here. I sip whiskey and trace the fucked up sidewalks and phone my Northern neurotics, who tell me of the unseasonably warm winter, which everyone agrees is a harbinger of the impending apocalypse.

“No fair!” I say.

This all started after my childless 69-year-old boss complimented my email style. She used the word “intrepid,” which made me want to slit my wrists with my Mastercard, but killing myself is too much something someone like me would do, you know? So instead I sell the clothes I wore before my best friend died and I got fat and bought a ticket to a place nicknamed The Big Easy.

horseman ii. CONQUEST

My temperament and this new locale seemed perfectly suited at first. In the swamp, no one appears upwardly mobile, few actually discuss work at all, and though the coastline is vanishing at an alarming rate, deluge seems far from everybody’s mind. My lack of ambition wasn’t questioned for a few weeks, but eventually eyes began to narrow. I heeded the collective skepticism by going out with a college guidance counselor. After a few drinks, I followed him to his car for a blowjob or something orbiting fucking only to be dettered by the crunch of dozens of empty fast food containers lining the floor of his SUV. What could this man possibly know about life? I made an excuse to leave with a promise to meet again, which was a lie.

I’ve been doing that a lot lately, lying to men, employers, my parents, to everyone except the ones who count, like the doctor screening me for an experimental hair loss treatment where I could make 100 bucks per visit. Apparently tobacco is a no-no when it comes to experimental drugs for hair loss. I wanted to tell them, I can’t be bald and not smoke, what will I have left? You know, like a joke. But instead I lie again and say that I understand.

When I’m not being deceitful, I take long drives between Louisiana and Texas to visit my family. On stretches of road under big skies I feel I can outrun my troubles. It probably has to do with the palpable movement of cruising hundreds of miles, terrain dotted in my periphery while some song plays for a few minutes during which the awful enormity of being alive feels withstandable, like maybe I’m a fish versus a whale and nothing is really that deep.

horseman iii. WAR

I’m fundamentally mistrustful of therapy. Doesn’t obsessive analysis of your feelings get you bluer? Besides, happiness is gauche, something for Versailles, not rentals with shit water pressure. I’ve got my own method. When bad things happen, I flatten their dimensions, mold them into a shape I can cope with and add it to the pile. Then when I’m 74 or near-death I can look back and presumably this pile will have taken form, now a sculpture which says something or at least could if you looked at it long enough.

Still, I’ve decided to try Wellbutrin because everybody’s doing it and drugs are awesome. Did you know you can get antidepressants now by filling out an online survey? Multiple choice smiley or frowny face, think the “How clean was this bathroom?” polls you find in airports. Essentially a verbal CAPTCHA, the questionnaire equivalent of Check this box if you’re human. Benzos still require face-time with a doctor, though. I find it very cruel how they make us dance for Klonopin.

(OK so I didn’t actually take the Wellbutrin once it arrived as it impeded my ability to day drink. Sometimes I wish I were simply bipolar. My friends assure me I am not—they’re in therapy so they’d know—this, I suppose, means I’m just a moody motherfucker. Which blows because that implies that somewhere inside I naturally possess the tools to control how I feel.)

horseman iv. DEATH

Earthquakes, floods, UFOs, nuclear war, AI art, the prospect of three more Avatar sequels: I’m loving all the bleak visions of the apocalypse. My friends and I play this game where we each guess how much longer we believe the planet has left. The most popular theory is that climate change will result in mass migrations which will destabilize global democracies a few decades before natural disasters engulf our cities. Remember when talking about the weather was considered small talk? Although, as someone recently pointed out to me, the Earth will be fine, actually. Humanity’s understanding of “the world” might be over, but like the Ice Age, different species will survive as the planet reaches a new stasis. I heard this on a rainy day when I was very hungover and the concrete sidewalks were spotted with big puddles. It made me want to cry.

Jacob Seferian is a writer whose work has appeared in several magazines. He lives in New York City, for now.

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