The Last Guest arrived at the clandestine club and was greeted at the door by a bouncer.
“Password?” The bouncer asked her.
“My life is a failure and everything I do is wrong.”
“It was just ‘Failure,’ but whatever.” He opened the door and let her in.
As she entered the main area, she saw that the Pity Party was in full swing: lots of people moping about the place, slumping in chairs, leaning against the bar, holding an obligatory drink despondently without ever drinking it, and picking at uneaten finger foods while the D.J. played dirges. He tried to get everyone line dancing, but the resemblance to a zombie crawl made him kick them off the dance floor. Last Guest felt that, at last, this was where she truly belonged.
She spotted a few of her almost-friends standing in a clump next to a weak-looking lava lamp, so she headed over to them.
“Hi! Didn’t think any of you would actually show up!”
“Nor we you,” Almost-Friend 1 said. “I thought you had it all together.”
“Blazes no, I’m an absolute wreck. The day when all my bills are paid off and the debt collectors stop calling me? Never gonna happen. And I realized this morning that I’m probably going to have to sell The House just to stay afloat.”
“Not The House!” Almost-Friend 2 said. “I think I remember you saying you grew up there!”
“I did, and I probably won’t get much for it since it got to be such a pig-sty, but it was mine. I would have said ‘ours’ if mom and dad hadn’t gotten sick and that was that, you know, same old story, I won’t bore you with the details. So what are you guys partying it up for?”
“Finally acknowledging my complete failure as an artist,” Almost-Friend 1 replied.
“No!” Last Guest said. “I love your stuff! And you were making at least some money from it, weren’t you?”
“Fifty cents technically is money, so yes, you are correct.”
Almost-Friend 1 took a swig of tonic. “I never did manage to have any of my work shown in a back alley, let alone a gallery. I know one must be patient, don’t expect too much out of life, these things take time, and all that, but you must admit that 23 years is a bit long for nothing to happen.”
“And I know that, when one fails, one must always try and try again, else how will one ever succeed? Yet I found myself asking myself, at what point does continual, constant, unremitting lack of success cease to be inspirational and instead become pathetic? I wish someone had told me when I had reached it, because I went far, far beyond it. One wonders when one should just admit defeat and pursue a less frustrating obsession.”
“Hm.” Last Guest turned to Almost-Friend 2. “So, what about you?”
Almost-Friend 2 looked at her morosely. “Still out of work, and my unemployment ran out the other day. I’d be homeless if my parents hated me.”
“Well, that’s great that you have your family with you! Most people wish they had that kind of support.”
“Yeah, I’ve suspected for some time now that they feel my failure in life means that they too have failed, both genetically and in their child-rearing.”
“I doubt that!”
“I’d sure feel that way if I was them.” His phone rang. “Excuse me – hello?... Really?! That’s, that’s wonderful news… Yes, I can start on Monday. See you then! Bye!” He disconnected the call. “I don’t believe it – the 217th interview I went on actually called back to say they want to hire me! Me! Listen, I’d better go before the disillusionment sets in – bye! I love you all!” As he left the club he addressed the rest of the attendees, who barely raised their heads to look at him. “I’m really sorry guys, but I have to say this while I still can: I’m outta here, losers! Ahahahahaha! I’m so, so sorry.” The attendees slowly lowered their heads as he fled the scene.
“So,” Last Guest turned to Almost-Friend 3. “What’s your story?”
“Resentful of life partner and kids, all of whom are brats.”
“That’s a bummer. Ever try professional help?”
“They won’t tell me anything I don’t already know: I’m an a-hole, I married an a-hole, our children logically are a-holes. Nothing to be done for it, so might as well not spend the money.”
“Have you ever tried not being an a-hole?”
“Tiger can’t change its stripes. Just wish I was born a better person, but that ship has sailed.”
“Not necessarily, if you really want to be better. Also, good things happen to good people.”
“We all like to think that, but nobody’s really that good. Well, there are a few who are that good, and they’re the ones who garbage happens to, so what does that tell you?”
“To give up?”
“Pretty much. Less aggravation that way – acceptance truly is the path to bliss.”
“Last call!” The bartender shouted.
“But I just got here!” Last Guest whined.
“That’s the rules,” the bartender said as she pointed to a sign above the bar that read “All Pity Parties Must Be Brief in Duration for Maximum Effect.”
“Aw shucks,” Last Guest said as her fellow Pity Partygoers shuffled out the door under the now-bright lights and to the sound of the abruptly cut-off music. “I wanted to wallow a bit longer.”
Almost-Friend 1 downed the rest of her drink. “Is our failure compounded if we can’t even Pity Party properly?”