Sunday, November 18The Voice of London

Remembering the dead this Halloween

How the rest of the world goes on when one world comes to an end.

The moment I first saw the scattered razor blades and pills covered in spots of blood, I did not immediately jump to the most obvious conclusion but arrived at a rather inappropriate one that someone had taken the Halloween night way too far.

Death was just a vague idea to me – something as vague as life – and having taken ownership of life, death did not occur to me as a tangible concept, but a distant future. I believed that to have the desire for death or to feel the need to live was simply a dramatisation of everyday struggles.

People were out from their rooms for the Hallow’s Eve to remember the dead – the martyrs gone by – and for all us, the idea of death had slipped past us for the day.

But as soon as the reality of the situation hit me, I was struck by the sudden concreteness of the end to one’s life.

My floor-mate that I never needed to characterize as “living” may now be “dead.” No longer did it matter that she was curly-haired or brown-eyed, or a Sociology student or that she even lived with us. She was now the “college student, dead” on the next day’s morning papers.

Agonising over the death of a next door neighbour put me further into a state of perplexity for it was not the tragedy of losing a loved one but simply the horror of death and its debris. The scarlet remnants of her breaths that she had once taken were smeared into the carpet as ugly spots for the custodian to clean up after – to disinfect the space of any reminder of her life. People quickly scattered when nothing was left to excite them anymore, failing to see that the very vacancy of the room was the materialisation of death itself. Once full of moments, thoughts, emotions, now vacant. We were advised to remain calm but everyone was already calm, because the scene of a real death was not as cinematic as one would expect it to be. There was no scent of blood lingering in the air, no heartfelt words of remembrance and most certainly, no stir.

Within days, her room was emptied by a friend from another university, who told me that the parents were not aware of the incident and that she will not be coming back on campus. No one else was interested enough to ask further. A wakeup call had sounded to remind us of our coexistence with death only to have us get through another day, with the sound of the call forgotten in an instant.

Only her moments were at standstill, while our moments continued to pass along our lives. Her world had ended on the carpet of a freshman dorm, waiting for another freshman to fill the room with life from the first of November.

As the night of the Halloween approaches and the weekend of blackouts, emergency rooms, irresponsible driving has come to an end, the nightmare of Halloween still haunts me yet to remind me of death, indeed.

WRITTEN BY JENNY JIN LEE | SUBBED BY LOUANNA ERARD

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