I am properly alone for the first time in about 24 hours. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but I am essentially a loner and I need my time to collect my thoughts. It has been a bit of a whirlwind 48 hours. I woke up on Sunday in the same way you always wake up on a hot summer’s day, hungover and just past midday. A quick smacking of my lips provides a less delicious aftertaste of London’s finest ales. This particular aftertaste seems to include the texture of carpet in place of my tongue. The best part of Sundays is not being woken up by the hammering of tools, the crunch of gravel and the banter of my strange, stammering uncle redecorating my kitchen.
After a few false starts, I manage to make it down the stairs. I glance around for breakfast. My stomach churns at the thought bacon and toast, then finally settles on fruit. I crunch my way through a tasteless apple or two, flicking through newspapers as I do. I glance over the front page of the normally dreadful local paper, nothing particularly registers. Headline is another dead teenager. My eyes flick to the picture. The face is completely unrecognisable to me, despite distinctive lip piercings and a big fringe. Her name is Natasha, she plays violin, aged 16. I am indifferent except in the sense of that old chestnut about the death of one being a tragedy, the death of a million being a statistic. I mutter this to myself, wondering whether it was a slow news day at the paper. I guess it’s always a slow news day if you completely ignore the goings on of local politicians. Where is the coverage of Syria or Libya, the only real news going on? Local papers are the reading equivalent of white bread, bland and unfulfilling. They allow xenophobics and fools to close ranks in a geographically and metaphorically small worldview.
Suddenly a twitch of intuition flicks in me. Natasha, violinist… I flick to the double page spread and read. I realise in the last sentence. My friend always used to talk about her. In the way he did about all his friends, but this one I remember hearing a lot about. He later tells me she had a plastic bag stuck over her head. A seemingly peacful way to die, a few sleeping pills and then just wait for the curtains to close. Just waiting for the curtains to close on your life, like some grotesque cabaret that wasn’t entertaining anymore.
My stomach lurches for probably the fiftieth time that morning. I shake my head in disbelief. I’ve always been sensitive to death. The girl, she’s pretty in a crazy way. But I’ve always liked the crazy ones.
Tributes cover the walls of facebook. Meaningless words about so sweet, so sad, so young. Thoughts with the family. One of god’s angels. The saccarine sweetness of false tributes sicken me more than anything else.
What if I had known her? If I had tried, I probably could have met her. Six degrees of separation and all that. But what would have been the point? Would I have liked her? Maybe. And I would probably have tried to show it by hitting on her, if I did. Tried to “game” her, like some kind of master seducer. Nice, now I’m considering sex with a dead girl.
In all the tributes and fictionalised memories, there’s no mention of her being what they colloquially call an emo. Black hair, piercings, androgyny. The sort of kids these bland, normal people ignore and shun. Laugh at and call out for their silly piercings and skinny jeans. I know this, because I used to wear skinny jeans and get laughed at. I still wear skinny jeans and get laughed at. Yesterday she was that goth making out with some pizza face under the statue, today she’s the honoured dead. What upsets me more than anything is that despite this, despite this realisation, people are still fucking horrible and ignorant in the same ways they were before.
For example, I glanced onto the Daily Mail’s website to see how they’d carried the story. Spun it into something about bullying being the cause. Whether that was a reason or not, I don’t know. If it was, I doubt it was the only one. The media just loves to package things up into bitesize portions. The article is maybe a hundred or two words. A whole life, summed up by a couple sentences on a website. I’m not expecting a modern epic in the format of an obituary, but at least some less vague reasoning would be nice. The comments are a bloodbath of idiots and bigots climbing over each other to shout the loudest about a broken society, about failing schools and even relating it to political correctness. Political correctness in the context of suicide? It doesn’t even make sense. It’s just fools foaming at the mouth about “Britain going to the dogs”. Any chance for a soapbox, I guess.
One particularly venomous comment even dismisses the emotional after effects of bullying, getting in the key words of liberal, namby-pamby and emphatic speech marks on ‘counselling’.
It’s not that I don’t care. I do. I really do. Enough that I’m not up for this sycophatic pandering and patronising of her memory. Complete strangers, leaving cliché messages all over the internet about the tragedy of the situation. The tragedy. Tragedy. Isn’t it funny that tragedy is a rough anglicisation of the Ancient Greek for “goat song”? What the hell does that word even mean? Does it mean anything to these people if they use it at every fucking mildly upsetting happening? And how can it be any more than mildly upsetting – a stranger you never knew or cared about has killed themselves. An open message to the people using that word in everyday speech, you’re killing its impact with commonality. Save it for your own funeral.
Her death speaks volumes in itself, it’s too late to be sympathetic now. She was depressed, probably for ages, probably obviously. How did her family not noticed? They were probably too busy locked up in the bullshit that is most parenthood to care. Now that it’s too late, we’re all telling her to rest in peace and she’ll never be forgotten. But she will. Slowly, by the end of the week, she’ll have slipped off the front page. Then a little further in. Following that, a small column on the side. And then she’ll be gone, the collective guilt complex of society effectively and temporary wiped clean until the next bout of national soul-searching that somehow never seems to make any progress or change our behaviour.
I, for one, am fucking sick of it. I’m so tired of this false love for the dead. It’s much easier to offer love and sympathy now, in hindsight. Now that they’re dead, so you don’t actually have to bother. It’s ten times harder to actually extend a hand of friendship to someone in a messed up place, to make a difference. Why? It’s not because it’s hard. That’s not it. Because we don’t care about anyone else. How many of these stupid sheep who have written these mind-numbingly empty internet posts are actually going to make a change to the way in which they treat others? Are they going to be better people? No, but they think these hollow platitudes will ring out and cover their guilt about being part of the machine that drove someone to death.
My proposition is simple. Let’s just stop bullying people. Let’s stop “just teasing” too, if that’s what you think this stuff is. Harmless fun is videos of cats on youtube. Harmful fun is yelling at a stranger they look like a faggot in the street. If you can’t make people laugh without picking on other people, you’re either not trying very hard or you’re just not funny. If you have to laugh at other people in order to secure a cluck of sycophantic giggling, what does that say about your insecurities?
And the day ends the same way it started. It’s hot, I’m thirsty and my stomach is lurching side to side with confusion, anger and fear.