He made friends quickly, but he lost them too, often with much bitterness. It wasn’t that he was a narcissist, good only for first impressions. But he seemed to hold out the promise of something more than friendship, hold it out inadvertently. They expected transcendence, and when it didn’t happen they blamed him. He had to give them the slip, wriggle out of their grip. Then came the tense catchups and the Facebook deletions.

He lost his filter, and cradling the grub of weed in the paper he reached into the bag for another. People hated freedom in others, hated even the casuals cut loose in the new economy. They loved and hated it both: if someone seemed to be free they reached out, wanting to be saved and to drag their saviour down. They loved his refusal of routine and they wanted to pin him in place, to prove he was no different. They wanted to be disappointed.

The grub had escaped. He looked at the floor, thinking he must have scattered the buds, but no, it was a living thing, inching away from him. Good for you, he thought, and watched it draw it up its middle like a slinky. He pulled the bowl into his lap and walked his scissors through the remaining weed. He rolled two joints, thinking ahead, and opened the window.

He didn’t know better than anyone, had never pretended to. Often it was success he evaded. He was a natural performer, and a few times now he’d come close to recognition, to relationships that might take him a distance, only to veer away at the last minute. Some instinct kept him in his bedroom. The bafflement of his friends made sense, he guessed. He knew he was squandering something.

The grub reached the wall and began to climb, each small leaf a scale in its armature. He wondered what it was after, moving up the wall, away from the corners and the undersides of furniture, away from the possibility of darkness and shelter. It climbed halfway up the wall and stopped, as a cockroach sometimes stops in a blank expanse, paralysed or intoxicated by all that open space. He lit his second joint.