Talented Tel Aviv Writer’s Salon member Katie Schlieper wrote this gorgeous, circumspect, moving essay based on the prompt: do you believe in an afterlife. The entire group was blown away by the direction Katie took that prompt in. Here it is, for your enjoyment:
I remember reading an article in the New Yorker back when social networking was just getting popular about logging on to a girl’s MySpace page a few days after she had been killed. The author of the piece scrolled through this girl’s photos, read her favorite quotes, clicked play on the song the girl had chosen as her site’s background music. This little corner of pixels and code was the girl’s electronic ghost. As long as the internet lives so will she, in this page that is frozen in time on a day in early January. And I don’t know whether that makes me more or less sad.
About four months ago a woman I knew who was working in Kabul died in a roadside bombing. She was 25. I can still log on to her Facebook page. People still leave her notes. They write, “We miss you Anne.“ “We know you’re having an awesome party in Heaven.” “We can’t believe you are gone, still, every day I think I will see your face.” Her face in her profile picture is bright and healthy. Her life is suspended in a second hand’s tick. She is there, whole forever in the flash before the explosion. She is there, one click away, as she always was.
It’s not the afterlife, it’s the never ended life. It’s not heaven because for a second or a minute or an hour or a day you can pretend she isn’t gone. In fact she can’t get away. Every time you flip your laptop open, there she is. Which is worse? To feel her slipping away, her face getting blurred at the edges with each passing week or to be reminded of that face each day? That face that was once alive and animated and is now just a line of code in a digital reflection forcing itself into the present. She is there, but she’s not. She is immortal but as easy to scroll past as an advertisement for a hotel in Miami.
I don’t believe in Heaven but I think we all deserve a denouement. A rest from our labors. A chance to wind the action down and end on a good note, the narrator singing us out with a sunset and a long walk home. The people I love I can’t bear to think of losing but when they go I would like to imagine it is with a sense that their capers have come to a satisfactory close.
The princess has been won, the dragon has been slayed, the trek through the mountains has ended at a quiet inn in the valley with good beer and a warm bed. When they close their eyes for that long night I would like it to be with the unburdened sigh of a good day’s work.
A good story cannot last forever. Even the best book must end. It will be the pain of all pain to turn the final page, to close the cover, to feel the end. But a comfort all the same to say I read you, to say I knew you, to say I watched your life and loved it, and to say your story now lives in mine.
Treat yourself to Just Effing Entertain Me: A Screenwriter’s Atlas