“We always called him “The Joker”. Even back in boy scouts, he had us rolling around the campfire in stitches. My favourite was his legendary encounter with the jellyfish he meant to throw at me. That SQUID squirted him in the face and while he was screaming like a banshee, we almost died laughing.
Tragically, we now know there was another side to Mark. Yet after his shows, we’d have a few beers, more jokes. Never anything about his troubles. Mark was my best mate. Now…. I wonder if I knew him at all!
Hey, guys, we need to talk.”
100 words. Photo prompt Lisa Fox.
This story was hard to reduce to the 100 words and I’m pretty stoked I got there in the end. Unlike the speaker in this story, I have long been aware of the clown with the tear. The anguish behind the smile. Yet, at the same time, if someone refuses to talk about their angst and won’t seek professional help, it’s a tough spot for a bystander. That said, sometimes just having someone sit alongside you and know they care or even love you can be enough.
I also wanted to mention actor Heath Ledger who wasn’t the inspiration behind my story, but at the same time clearly deserves a mention.
Here in Australia we have a suicide prevention program based on asking people: RUOK? We even have RUOK Day, which will be on the 14th September, 2023. They also have some resources to help you progress the conversation. Last year, I also did a suicide intervention course through Lifeline and found it incredibly useful unfortunately. Not every joker is always joking.
This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff Fields at Addicted to Purple.
Yep, bottled up problems are difficult to discuss without feeling out of place.
That’s very sad, Rowena.
Hopefully, they’ll get to know the real Mark before it’s too late.
Well done. Laughter often hides tears.
It’s always interesting that so many comics and stand ups have personal lives that are marked by depression and addiction and mental health issues – as though their humour is their way of dealing with it.
So much easier for some to hide behind smiles 💞
Very nicely done, Rowena.
Good story. I’m glad you are discussing suicide here and in your community. It’s ok to ask if someone is ok.
Thank you very much, Tracey. Asking if you’re okay has now become part of our conversation here, which is really good. With my close friends we’ve talked about being okay despite things not going well for us. I had an interesting experience with my husband. I have serious ongoing health issues and there are times where it gets to me but I usually keep quiet because I don’t want to stress my family out and it usually passes pretty quick and I have ongoing professional support through my occupational therapist. But I psyched myself up and said to my husband that I wasn’t okay. He was so used to that, he didn’t react and I felt a bit miffed. When I pulled him up on it, he said “but you’re never okay”. I responded to him: “But I was not okay not okay”. So, as our experience shows, these conversations are not easy. I had a friend who used to send me the occasional postcard that she’d picked up on her travels when she knew I was struggling and I really appreciated that and she’s been a real role model to me. These days I tend to text friends, especially as I can’t always talk on the phone. Going for a drive or fisdhing with someone where you’re sitting side by side is good.
I just realised that you didn’t ask for all these strategies but I’ve put them here in case for anyone reading this. I volunteer with a youth suicide prevention group and it’s a cause very dear to my heart.
So true. Smiles are also very convincing even when you know someone is doing it tough.
Yes. You don’t need to even dig deep and a string of names come to mind and the tragedy of it all and whether it was preventable. Chefs are another profession where there are difficulties. My daughter is wanting to become a professional ballerina which is a concern but she is who she is and she’s always been a ballerina the same way that Michelangelo saw David in a slab of marble. Whether she can make a go of it professionally is another story, but that’s definitely who she is.
I thought you would appreciate one of the things she likes about ballet versus contemporary dance. Everything is very tightly choreographed with ballet. These are the steps and you follow them. Mind you, she still needs to infuse emotion, story and passion into the dance. Being on the edge of her world is an education.
Yes you did package your story to 100 words. Nicely handled. A difficult subject to broach in writing or asking. Sad, but well done.