I did steal the money, but they shouldn’t have been surprised. I mean, we stole from all sorts of people. Shops, businesses, neighbours, family. Friends was just one more class of victim.
“Choose life” was a well-meaning slogan from a 1980s antidrug campaign. And we used to add things to it. So I might say, for example, choose… Designer lingerie in the vain hope of kicking some life back into a dead relationship. Choose handbags. Choose high-heeled shoes. Cashmere and silk to make yourself feel what passes for happy. Choose an iPhone made in China by a woman who jumped out of a window, and stick it in the pocket of your jacket fresh from a South Asian firetrap. Choose Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and a thousand other ways to spew your bile across people you’ve never met. Choose updating your profile. Tell the world what you had for breakfast and hope that someone, somewhere cares. Choose looking up old flames, desperate to believe that you don’t look as bad as they do. Choose live-blogging from your first wank to your last breath. Human interaction reduced to nothing more than data. Choose ten things you never knew about celebrities who’d had surgery. Choose screaming about abortion. Choose rape jokes, slut shaming, revenge porn, and an endless tide of depressing misogyny. Choose 9/11 never happened, and if it did, it was the Jews. Choose a zero-hour contract and a two-hour journey to work, and choose the same for your kids, only worse. And maybe tell yourself it’s better that they never happened. And then sit back and smother the pain with an unknown dose of an unknown drug made in somebody’s f***ing kitchen. Choose unfulfilled promise and wishing you’d done it all differently. Choose never learning from your own mistakes. Choose watching history repeat itself. Choose the slow reconciliation towards what you can get rather than what you always hoped for. Settle for less and keep a brave face on it. Choose disappointment. And choose losing the ones you loved. And as they fall from view, a piece of you dies with them. Until you can see that one day in the future, piece by piece, they will all be gone. And there’ll be nothing left of you to call alive or dead. Choose your future, Veronika. Choose life.