My habitual fear of death has recently turned into something like terror. In common with many young people, I've often luxuriated in the thought of death, maybe catching a terminal disease and looking like Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 50/50, or acting a bit odd like Burt Reynolds in The End. It's a Hamlet thing, where you give some existential heft to a banal proclivity to mope. But as I get older, it's no longer so funny. And I could do with stopping thinking about it, but how do you break the habit of a lifetime?
Of course, this is something to do with proximity. A number of people I grew up with have died. Not many, but some. And the upper tier of my relatives, the people who were always old, from the day I was born, they're all gone. Except for the frighteningly old. It's like we're at a long queue at a fun park, the kind that has little signs that say '20 mins from here', '1 hour from here' and we're all shuffling forward. And people leave the queue early and we all move up a bit.
In films everyone is dead. There was a time you'd watch a film and most of the people would be alive: Marlon Brando, Richard Burton and Heath Ledger. But now you can watch a film confident in the knowledge that you're watching dead people, watching them fall in love, sing, tap dance, play tennis, fight, joke, weep and pretend to die. The main players are dead, the love interest is dead, the crowd behind the main actors, they're all dead, even someone passing by who doesn't know they're in a film, they're gone too. The laughter on the comedy shows is also the laughter of dead people.
I depress myself. I rub my chest. I try not to go up the stairs too quickly. I get depressed by trailers which advertise something coming soon, knowing that one day something else will be coming soon. Obviously I desperately pretend that I'll probably live forever, but the evidence for this belief is looking increasingly thin and cranky. I can only hope that at some point I'll get so bored of the fear, that the ultimate cure for it won't seem so terrible after all.
John Bleasdale is a writer. His work has appeared in The Guardian, The Independent, Il Manifesto, as well as CineVue.Com and theStudioExec.com. He has also written a number of plays, screenplays and novels.