Like you, I consider myself a reasonable enough citizen. You know: live life in moderation, enjoy the occasional YouTube clip of frolicking otters and kittens, perhaps overtip a waitress who goes to the trouble of tarting herself up a bit or maybe just make the effort to try to be nice to the poor — yay, poor people!
I suppose, in general, I enjoy traveling through life with a certain Jason Bourne–like dashingness. Oh, no! An assassin is rap- pelling down the side of the building, armed with a dozen box cutters! What are we going to do? It's Raymond Gunt! We're saved!
That's my name, Raymond Gunt, and welcome to my world. I don't know about you, but I believe that helping others is a way of helping yourself; what goes around comes around — karma and that sort of guff. So, seeing that I'm such a good soul and all, I really don't know how to explain the most recent month of my life. There I was, at home in West London, just trying to live as best I could — karma, karma, karma, sunshine and lightness! — when, out of nowhere, the universe delivered unto me a searing- hot kebab of vasectomy leftovers drizzled in donkey jizz.
Whuzzat?! Hello, universe? It's me, Raymond! What the fuck! I am left, dear reader, with no other option than to believe that when my world turned to shit last month, it was not in fact me who had done anything wrong. Rather it was the universe, for I, Raymond Gunt, am a decent chap who always does the right thing.
And as I look back to try to figure out when the universe and I veered away from each other, I think it definitely had to be that ill-starred morning when I made the mistake of visiting my leath- ery cumdump of an ex-wife, Fiona.
It was a blighted Wednesday off Charing Cross Road. After about fifty ignored e-mails, Fi deigned to allow me to come to her office, in a gleaming steel-and-limestone executive tombstone that straddles one of those tiny streets near Covent Garden. The building's lobby was redeemed by being filled with heaps of that
1990s art about death and fucking — pickled goats, fried eggs and tampons — and there was a faint hissing sound as I passed through it and into the elevator, the sound of my soul being sucked out of me, ever so nicely, thank you.
Behind her desk sat Fiona, elfin, her pixie hair dyed a cruel black. She cocked an eyebrow at me. "Jesus, Raymond, I've seen rhesus monkeys that look hotter than you." She was busy piling caviar atop a Ritz cracker.
"Lovely to see you, too, dear."
Her office was well-oiled leather and chiseled steel, a fine enough reflection of her method of handling daily life. What was painfully evident was that Fi was minting money with her cast- ing agency. The joke was on me for having suggested that she give the casting gig a try. She's an expert at meeting people and figuring out instantly what their personal style of lying is and how to make it work for them. What else is acting, if not that?
But you do need to know that Fi is a dreadful, dreadful, dreadful person. She is monstrous. She is the Anti-Shag. She is an atomic bomb of pain. If you puncture her skin, a million baby spiders will explode from her body and devour you alive, pupat- ing your remains, all the while making little squeaking noises that will taunt you while you die in excruciating agony.
And yet ...
... And yet there is something about Fi's ... um, musk. I can loathe her at a distance, but up close that scent overrides every other emotion I harbor for the woman: murderous rage, bilious hatred and not a small degree of fear. Fi is the only woman who's ever had this effect on me. All the crap I've put up with just for a whiff of her: all the times she's fucked me over, looted my bank account, stolen my pills and trash-talked me all the way from Heathrow to Stansted. My inability to overcome this most primal of attractions has been the downfall of my life. There is no other way to explain one of nature's most catastrophic and implausible pairings, but I guess that's what any chap says about his wife.
As I entered her office, Proustian recollections of our time together swam in my head. I felt poetic and wistful.
"One moment, Raymond." Fi removed a black onyx stash box of coke from a desk drawer, sprinkled some of it on top of the caviar, and began to demolish her snack, conveniently forgetting to invite me to join in. The noises from her mouth were like ran- domly typed keys: "Vbv bdlkfnsld jz slvbds lbfbakl."
"Looks delicious, dear."
Suddenly she leaned back in her chair and began coughing out mouthloads of crackers and caviar. "Vbn. Sfhejwbe cfbiqq fflekh!!!"
Heimlich: yes or no? "Dear?"
She waved me away and finally shot a cluster of sturgeon eggs out her nostril. "Fucking hell." She used a nearby letter to fan her face. The crisis seemed to have passed. "Ooh. There. Finally it's gone," she said.
"The food trapped in my esophagus. It's in my stomach now." "Fucking hell, that's disgusting, Fi."
"How is that disgusting, Ray?"
"It's like you've just taken a massive shit inside yourself."
Fi burst into a cackle. "Sometimes I miss your childlike take on the world, Raymond." She smiled at me.
"Fi, look, just give me a fucking shooting assignment. I'm three months behind on my rent."
"Stop throwing your money away on dildos and Asian preteen porn, darling. Then you won't always be broke."
"I don't go to Thailand, dear. Nor am I into goats and gerbils." "So what did you really spend all your money on?"
"Fi, need you be such a raging twat?" "Coke bill overdue?"
"Coke's a bit out of my league these days." I glanced over at her door to see a pink silk ascot tied around the knob. "Hmmm. What about you — into autoerotic asphyxiation these days?"
"Oh, don't mention autoerotic asphyxiation to me! Fucking entertainers! All these actors and musicians ever want to do is strangle themselves while they're getting off. I can't believe more of them haven't died."
"How does that whole strangling thing work, anyway? I mean, do actors recite a bit of Hamlet, sing a song or two and then sud- denly, 'Oi! I'm famous, and I think I'd better go strangle myself while I come!'?"
"Pretty much. And you'd think they'd hire someone to babysit them while they do it."
"Yes, but that would wreck the fun, wouldn't it? 'Ooh! I can't breathe! Help me! Help me!' Not very sexy at all. Chances are your babysitter would be so repulsed by your lack of commitment she'd let you hang anyway."
"I keep the ascot there to give my clients proper hanging les- sons. The DIY sites on the Internet are hopeless, and a dead cli- ent is a client who's no longer making me money."
I looked at Fiona's beloved onyx coke box with sad beagle eyes.
"Blow!" said Fi. "Excellent idea." She dove in.
God only knows how badly I was salivating at this impudent display of purchasing clout. She vacuumed two rails, wiped her nostrils and said, "I like to see you grovel and be deprived of drugs. Life is good."
"You ball-curdling witch. What is your problem?"
"My problem is you, Raymond darling. I don't like having you in the same city as me."
"Can't say I like it much, either."
"Yes, but the thing is that you, darling, are a failure. When people bump into you, they justifiably equate me with you, and you have to imagine how that makes me feel." She put the coke box back into her drawer. "I really can't have that, at least not until a few more years have gone by and all memory of you and your rapidly accelerating downward failure spiral has faded away like a pensioner's capacity for long division."
"I see." I leaned back in my chair. "I seem to remember a much younger version of you making bedroom eyes at me from the floor of the 1992 Daytime BAFTA Awards when (if I may pat myself on the back here) I accepted my trophy for Best Handheld- Camera Work in a Cooking or DIY Home-Improvement Show."
"You have to stop living in the past, Raymond." She made her oh-why-not face. "How would you like a camera gig in the sun- kissed Pacific, ogling young beauties all day, just you and your shoulder cam?"
Excerpted from Worst. Person. Ever. by Douglas Coupland. Copyright 2014 by Douglas Coupland. Excerpted by permission of Penguin.