They called him that because when he stumbled into one of the vegan pubs that litter the high street these days, he would start reminiscing about those tumultuous decades just after the millennium’s turn. ‘No future,’ he said. Not back then. World was a dumpster fire, as they said.
Now it’s different. Johnny sees his despair used as a fashion. And maybe he hates that more than the Tory government of his time, the Silicon Valley types, the oil barons. My generation, he fumes in his head, they did disinterested pastiche best. These kids were mocking that. Generation B. They actually had widespread hope, the productive kind that marched on into the problems of the world, as if they could do it. And then actually did.
So Johnny would sit in the corner of the vegan pub and watch youngsters come in (this during the summer, the time of return from campuses across the world) wearing their multicoloured soy-leather, their pumps, their post-streetwear. And if they talked of an idea that was from his time Johnny would shout, ‘Oh, that was peak ’22; that was the fashion of ’14; mid-’16 was the best time for music, not your Korean nonsense. You weren’t around for Frank Ocean, but I saw him at his last public performance. Good times.’ If a kid ordered some traditional pub food, a beetroot burger or the like, Johnny would lean in and proudly state, I was one of the first in that third surge of veganism. I opened chicken cages with my own bare hands, back when that was illegal.
The Long 2016. Society had somehow pulled through to other years.
Holo-documentaries scoffed at ‘revolutionary pessimism’, the proclaimed fall of Green Deal III. Now the Sahara thrummed with solar, the crash of waves twirled electricity from coastal borders, lava-glow was under every house. Johnny had lived in the moment, the final moment, then had to deal with what came after. No eternal youth in his death; no drowning. Coalition seawalls stymied that fate.
No future. The romanticism of it. It was easier to live when every step made you think of death, a mourning process for the Earth, the death of progress. Sometimes Johnny would slur out suicide memes, deadpan one-liners from a tweet long-lost in the company’s nationalisation, little absurdities that once gave him sparks of anti-life. The kids would look up blank or with abject horror. Would move to the other side of the pub.
(Whatever was nostalgia, old man? A calling. The attempt to right wrongs. Ignoring moments of light for something inferior, something lazy.)
One in the morning. After grumbling his goodbyes to the rosy-faced staff and other regulars, less miserable but just as old, Johnny walks to his council flat. To live in an age of UBI – aye, there were worse lives to be stuck with. Death never seemed mundane to Generation Z, back when they were young; the perpetual adolescence that would take the world with their growth. There was always a romance to it. To know: this is it. Tonight’s the night. Like every other evening, Johnny stumbled home.