A little content warning on this one (depression and suicide).
Katelin Farnsworth has written a poignant piece that I felt would really resonate with readers - a story that speaks profoundly to the nature of social media and its twisting infiltration into our lives. I spoke to her about writing and inspiration.
ANNA: What do you love about writing short fiction? What about reading it?
KATELIN: I think I’m still learning how to write good short fiction, but I love the immediate impact a good short story has on you. I also love how it lingers and gets inside, and how hours later you might still be thinking about it. I love short stories that have urgency to them – lots of action, and a good sense of place or person. I love to create characters that seem real and jump off the page, even if they only exist for a couple of pages/a few minutes.
ANNA: This is a fairly dark story - where do you find inspiration? Is this a theme you write around often?
KATELIN: I tend to write what I’m thinking about so I guess that’s where I find inspiration. I’m also a big people watcher and I think some of the best stories come from just watching people on the train or in the café.
Facebook is something I have struggled with for a long time. I made the decision to deactivate my account last year as I found myself struggling mentally. I was spending far too much time on it, causing myself unnecessary anguish. I wanted to write a story that looked at the way social media governs our lives, and the way we use it to create attention and affection. Facebook plays such a huge part in our lives – I think it’s important to acknowledge that. I wanted to write about something I understood and something others could probably could relate to, in one way or another. I think I often write dark stories unintentionally but I’m not sure why.
ANNA: As a writer, what is one thing you can't live without?
KATELIN: Conversations. I learn so much from other people – from ideas, and discussions, and different points of view. It’s so important to get out there and talk to people, to learn what makes someone tick, what sets their heart beating, what makes them come alive. I think it’s the only way I can ever really write something someone else will relate to. And ultimately that’s what I want to do. To move people.
And, of course, I can’t live without books (but that’s a given, right? And cake. Lots of cake.)
You told everyone you were gonna jump. Put it on Facebook. Twitter too. Nearly Myspaced that shit. But nobody uses Myspace these days. Besides, you were never gonna do it.
The moon is flaky in the sky. Like it’s been cut and paste there. Your hands shake and you twist long strands of brown hair around your fingers. Your hair has taken a long time to grow back. Sixteen months ago you shaved it off. Grabbed the kitchen scissors and got hacking. We all gasped when you uploaded that photo to Facebook. You know the one.
Why did you do it? I typed into the chat box.
Dunno, whateva. I imagined your fat little fingers tapping the keyboard deliberately. Bored. Time for a change. Yknow.
No. I don’t know.
And then you sent one of those stupid emoticon faces. The one with its tongue hanging out. I shut the computer down and went outside. Had a cigarette and tried to forget about your bald head and cut wrists.
You’re standing on the bridge. Bashing your hands together now. Pinching your arms until they turn blue. Mulberry bruises. Breathing in and out. Rubbing your tongue along the roof of your mouth, scraping it across your teeth. You wonder if you should have eaten beforehand. You know, the last supper. Fried chicken wings and salty chips. Your belly rumbles. Heaves. You dangle a leg over the railing. You’re wearing a dress. Pink, with white flowers scribbled across it. And you’ve curled your hair as well. Your leg glistens in the moonlight. You shiver even though it’s not cold. Summer has been long and tight. Orange blossoms and Jacaranda scents. Ice cream melting on the tongue and blistering, sticky nights, naked on top of sweaty bed sheets. You are ready to go somewhere cool. To lie down in a tub of ice and never wake up. This is your moment now. The big one. The one you’ve been waiting for. You pull your cardigan tighter around your chest. Your heart is throbbing. You drag the other leg over. Now you’re standing there totally exposed. There is nothing holding you back. No protection. If you jump, you will die.
It’s okay I’m ready for death yknow? Gonna jump off the Westgate Bridge 2nite. Don’t try & stop me there’s no point, just gonna do it it’s the right thing to do.
I read your status over and over. Drank three cups of tea and switched the telly on. Switched it off. I was sure you were joking. Melodrama. Just trying to get a reaction. I refrained from calling you. I didn’t want to give you what you wanted. But you texted me anyway. Best friends since high school. I guess you wanted me to do something.
not sure if you saw on fb but 2nite i’m gonna do it. the big one, yknow. the final push. whateva, gonna do it 2nite. thanx for tryin to make me better. luv u.
My fingers twitched. I wasn’t sure what to say. Eventually I settled on saying nothing. I made more tea and opened a book up. Murakami’s new one. All his characters try to kill themselves as well.
Your hair is blowing in the wind. Sticking to your lips. You bought new lipstick for the occasion. Pink. Glossy.Go on, just do it, you can do it, you’ve got this.
You tell yourself you’re in control, that this is the right thing to do. That a life without pain is a good life. No one ever told you a life without pain isn’t a life. You push your hands together and your legs wobble. In the moonlight you can see pale leg hairs glistening. You wished you had shaved. Moisturized. Maybe even wore stockings. K-mart has a bargain on at the moment. $12 for those silk ones you like. All different colours too. You press your fingers into your face and feel for the scar Ritz gave you. Pear shaped and ugly. Forever indented in the side of your head. You scratch at it. Imagine it away. Curse Ritz. Imagine what he’s doing right now. Maybe lying under your bed in a pile of blankets. Or chewing on a pair of shoes. Or barking at crows as they make their way across power lines slowly. If you jump you’ll never see Ritz again. Or wear those black high heels you bought. You know, the ones that cost you a bomb. A fortune. A future. A whole Centerlink paypacket.
Go on, just jump, hurry up and do it.
You smack your lips together. You’re going to do it. Right now. This very second. Any minute. You’re just going to wait for the wind to die down. To stop slapping into your skin. And then you’ll jump. You’ll soar. Fly. Okay. You’re ready now. Take a deep breath. Wipe a bead of sweat from your forehead. And -
‘Don’t be a dickhead!’
‘Amy?’ You swing round, your mouth pulled open, your hands flapping against my chest.
‘Yes, of course it’s me. You complete dick.’
‘What you doing?’ You are angry. Snarling. Reminds me of a pit-bull. But there’s also relief in your faded green eyes. ‘You saved my life.’
‘Well, of course I did, you fucking idiot.’ I try to blink away the tears. I don’t want you to see me crying. You pull your dress down and walk with me to the car. I’ve been watching you for a while. Had the radio turned up. Slurping on my Macca’s smoothie and eating burgers. ‘Get in,’ I say, pushing you into the passenger seat. You look confused.
‘But why did you come?’
I don’t respond. I turn the engine on and we sit in silence. Outside the wind is whistling, tugging at the world around us.
‘Well, thanks,’ you say softly. I pull out onto the road.
‘Are you hungry?’
‘Don’t try anything like that again, okay?’ I say, pulling into an all night kebab shop. You nod and get out of the car. We eat our kebabs in the dim light and then I drive you back to my place. I make you sleep in my bed and I sleep on the floor next to you.
The next morning I check my Facebook. I have the usual messages from randoms chatting me up, and a few notifications about parties I said I’d go to. I scroll down my newsfeed. Stop when I see your status.
so tried to kill myself last night, yknow how it goes. didn’t go thru with it thou. prob need help thou as mite try again, ya never know. but am doin’ okay. thanx every1 for all ur luv and support. ur all awesome.
I read the comments. Everyone is so glad you survived. That you’re okay. They all tell you how special you are. How loved you are. Such a beautiful person. A bright star in an otherwise dark world.
I look over at you. I wonder what you’re dreaming, your head delicately pressed against the pillow. Your eyes are shut, your mouth slightly ajar, smiling slightly as though something wonderful has just happened. I slide out of my sleeping bag and get up. Turn my phone off and drop it into a glass of water. Slam the door shut and go outside.
All month we are featuring stunning pieces from the Writers Bloc workshops. Honestly, it's almost criminal just how good the work being shared there is. You can check it out at http://thewritersbloc.net/read, where you'll be able to add your own stories (and maybe see them featured in Bloc Features), read other stories, and add your own reviews and critiques.
If you would like to recommend a piece for Writers Bloc (from our workshops or from another journal), please email email@example.com.
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