Issue 35, Final Fringe

Jacob Driscoll Discusses "I Will Miss You When You Are Gone"

by Fringe Magazine 11.15.2010

Jacob Driscoll answers a few questions about ”I Will Miss You When You Are Gone.”

 

Fringe: Tell us a bit about the story’s inception.

In a dark mood, I asked myself an unanswerable question: why do we long so much to destroy ourselves? To puzzle out that little koan, I wrote a few characters, and had them tell me why they wanted to do it. Why do you want to kill yourself? What do you gain from losing everything? Once they had explained it, I realized they were all talking basically about the same thing, and that they were conflicted over it. All that was left was to beat a sort of adequate narrative out of them, to help them tell other people about this thing that was so important to them and difficult for them. The beatings took a few years, but were apparently successful! 

 

Fringe: There’s a strong mythological undertone here. How did that come about? How does it serve the story?

It came mostly from the characters: they all long to be important, to have meaningful lives. I guess that’s a pretty basic desire, but it’s the same desire of any self-destroyer. Achilles in The Iliad goes willingly to his death for the sake of glory. Martyrs die to advance the cause of their god. People who lose their souls to their jobs or their families have this sense of something greater than themselves at stake; they are willing to believe that their insurance company or their sticky toddler is of immense importance. Even for your more obvious suicides, the idea of taking your own life gives a euphoria, a hope, that is otherwise unavailable. That’s what death or nihilism offers them: a mythic sort of end, and an escape from the possibility that they will suffer long in obscurity and die alone, a security blanket of “someone else will care if I die.” So you get characters that can turn quiet subway cars into dangerous underworlds, sunsets into explosions, a lack of love into history and magic. If they admit that it’s not hyperbolic, it’s insignificant. Which is something they can’t allow their deaths to be.

 

Fringe: How much of you–if any–is in this narrator?

Every character’s got a bit of me in them. The narrator inherited some of my contrariness, some of my speech habits. But he’s more idealistic and helpful than I am, and more conflicted. I feel a little closer to the suicide-bomber character, actually.

 

Fringe: Why 17 sections, counting backwards from 16?

The narrator and his love tie the other stories together, and they have a connection to myths of Orpheus and Eurydice. Orpheus being a heroic musician, I thought such a narrator might organize his story as if it were a sort of song. So, being a song sung by the narrator, it has a 4/4 time signature: each scene is a beat, and there are four beats per “measure” before they repeat (four times). The countdown shows how much time is left in the song, until the narrator is out of time, and has to make a choice about his own existence. The 17th beat is “outside of time,” which helps reinforce the idea of escape, either via death or not, and also escape from the bounds of the myth, the narrator discovering that he can act on his own, even if it might be unsatisfying.

 

Fringe: Ask yourself an important question about this piece, and answer it.

Here’s a question from someone I know: “What are you hoping people feel when they read this?”

I’m aware that the story is filled with some unpleasantness, but I actually hope that people feel sort of reassured by the end of it. A little sobered and exposed, maybe, but okay with that state, comfortable with being a little discomforted.

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Fringe: it’s the noun that verbs your world, and the magazine you’re reading. We publish work that is political or experimental in form or content and define both “political” and “experimental” broadly. “Political” can mean work that incorporates or comments on current events or it can mean literature and art that further personal dignity and advocate human rights. We regard “experimental” work as work that breaks with the canon, takes formal risks, or explores a strange or impossible point of view.

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