I had this idea a while ago, but it seemed a little morbid for a blog who’s foundations lie in tales of clumsy teenage misadventures in fingering and text message induced anxiety. But c’mon. We’ve written about all kinds of crap since talking about actual boys started landing us in various degrees of ‘trouble’ with whomever we may or may not have been referring to in our tales of comedy boy-induced woe. But, as they say, if not now, when…
(Incidentally, I just remembered that that quote formed part of my school motto…)
Some people are sort of ok with or used to people dying. They lose a grandparent or even a parent when they’re young. Or a pet. I was pretty fortunate really that I got to keep people like that until I was 17. My brilliant grandma Betty died when I was in the middle of sitting my A Level exams. She had been ill for a long time and in the end, despite how devastatingly sad it was and how I pretty much held everything in to look after my mum and get through my exams, it was one of those deaths that you know is a relief. My grandma left a whole world of brilliant things behind. Funny stories; like how she told her soon-to-be in-laws on their first meeting that their cat was being so friendly to her because it could, “probably smell her pussy”. Or the time she tried to pull a handkerchief from her handbag in the theatre but ended up wiping her tears on a pair of tights that she had in there for some reason. A legacy of great recipes, an inherited fear of hair brushes, and beautiful mirror I now have in my own home. Long time ago, now. 12 years. But you know what? It’s still sad. No one can think or talk about her for long before it just feels too sad. I find it funny to think that she was such a big part of so much of my life, but I was only in a really short time of hers, in the grand scheme of things.
A boy I went to primary and secondary school with died in a terrible car accident about six years ago. I’ve written about him and his brilliant bright trainers before. And he’s in this wonderful picture of us in a school play. It was so completely horrific and shocking. I had to tell another friend over the phone – she was his best girly friend and she hadn’t heard. I had been at a meeting in central London and I sat bent over double on a street in soho wanting to cry or fall apart but just crouched there, clutching my phone. It felt surreal. Like a confusing dream. People my age don’t die. They don’t get in to accidents and just die like that.
When my mum phoned to tell me that my cat – the sweet, quirky, strange little kitten I had been given for my tenth birthday – needed to be put down, I was at a knitting class in the middle of the Royal Festival Hall. I felt completely sick and sad but that same confusing disorienting surreal feeling consumed me, and I kept on knitting. When we took her to the vet, I ended up tweeting what was going on the whole time. I keep on wishing I hadn’t done that. I had posted this photo to my mum on facebook too. And it’s still there. Just like my grandma, the cat had been a part of my life, my history, for a really long time. I was part of her entire life. She was very old, and very ill. It was just her time to die.
I woke up at 3am this morning. I’d been having a nightmare – a recurring one actually which now may or may not be leading me to a really great opportunity, in a bizarre yet somewhat irrelevant twist. For whatever reason, I was awake. I wrote a tweet about being awake, nightmare, etc etc… deleted it due to not wanting to sound needy, and being quite aware about how pathetic I sound when I use twitter in that misery-crutch way when I feel rubbish. So instead I scrolled down, read what was going on with who was awake, and saw an odd message from one friend to another, who happen to be neighbours, something about the police… I was tired… it seemed like a DM that had gone astray. When I woke up, I saw a string of messages that left me feeling like I was stuck to my chair with lead weights. I felt cold. Hot. Pale. Flushed. Sick. Confused. Wondered if it was some sort of strange twitter joke. How could someone – a funny, intelligent, talented and creative person I had spoken to on twitter for over a year – someone I debated with about everything from pre-raphaelite typographical styles to the best way to sneak cameras in to museums – one of a (gladly, increasing) handful of OnlyKnowFromTwitter chums I had met in Real Actual Life – how could these cold administrative tweets full of dates and times and arrangements be real? James was no big part of my life. A tiny (impeccably well dressed) face in a tiny box on a tiny screen who would pop up every now and then. But no one has ever died from my twitter stream before. Twitter plays this little game with us where it turns strangers in to friends. The feelings we get from the connections we make aren’t really like anything we’ve had in other parts of our lives before. It’s new. Everything is a bit unmapped. We don’t know where we’re going. Take the ridiculous Twitter Joke Trial for example. The lack of understanding of the medium is because this is all new to everyone. The way we read tone of voice; The jokes we’re allowed to make; And, what happens when someone dies. I find myself incredibly sad, shaken, confused. Twitter is full of people trying to outsmart or out-funny one another but it’s full of a lot of bitching and moaning. People pouring their hearts out. Whinging about a bad day at work. Spilling intimate private details of their sex lives or their mental health or their physical ailments. I do it. (A lot, yeah). And you know what? I’m glad. I’m glad that people share everything and I hope that they carry on doing that. Because these connections aren’t made by being family. Or school friends. Or pets. If this is how we make connections now, then this is how we deal with death now. A grandparent dies, you spend time with your family. A pet dies – you keep their bowl for a little while, maybe bury them in their favourite spot in the garden. A school friend dies – you share photos and stories and hold memorial events in their honour. But a friend you made on the internet? What then? Is it less real? Is it less sad or more sad that you didn’t realise anything was wrong? How do you cope with this sort of death when there are so few rules with how to cope with the bits you do whilst you’re alive?