We all got holes to fill
them holes are all that’s real.
Some fall on you like a storm,
sometimes you dig your own.
–“To Live Is To Fly,” Townes Van Zandt
One of my best friends is leaving town very, very soon and “closure” has been a frequent topic of conversation as she prepares to move on to the next phase of her life.
My dead boyfriend visited my dreams for years. I spent most nights futilely chasing his shadow through the streets of Wicker Park. I pedaled my bike so hard and so fast, I thought my heart might just explode. I raced through red lights as I weaved between cars. But he always eluded me. Other times I questioned our mutual friends about their involvement in his semi-mysterious demise. Conspiracies abounded, but I could never get the pieces to fully fit together. On the rare occasion that I actually spoke to him he was completely perplexed by the flood of emotion that surged uncontrollably from me.
“Pull yourself together, Amanda. You’re acting crazy. I just saw you yesterday!”
For a moment I would allow myself to belief that this was true, that our chance passing on the Damen El platform would result in dinner, followed by waking up with him in the morning. But when dawn began to gently nudge me out of my dreams, I found myself alone again.
It wasn’t just the endless dull ache of missing him. It wasn’t just that his death had simultaneously resulted in the rapid unraveling of every aspect of my life. It was the realization that we would never, ever get to really talk about what happened. It was the agony of carrying thousands of unspoken words around with me for the rest of my life. Years later, in yet another weepy session with my therapist I would practically scream “IT’S ALL OF THE THINGS THAT I’VE NEVER SAID THAT ARE POISONING ME.”
Closure. That’s something that one cannot expect from the dead. Maybe *if* there is an after life, *if* we’re going to see everyone we’ve ever lost and *if* we’re selfishly going to choose to finally hash things out after years and years of separation, well then, maybe closure is a possibility.
But let’s say, like me, you’ve been raised in a staunchly atheist household, and as a result, maybe somewhere along the way you’ve read a lot of books and decided you’re an “existentialist.”
(That’s a long, semi-interesting story that might be addressed at another time).
Oh, I wanted to yell at my dead boyfriend so much. Say all the things I had never said (because I thought he would leave me if I did). I wanted to list all of the times I had forced myself to be a brave stoic soldier, while I secretly wondered if maybe, just maybe, one could just die from hurt feelings. I wanted, no, NEEDED, no less than one hundred apologies. The biggest apology of all would be along the lines of “I’m sorry that I was a selfish junkie and I basically ruined your life when I ended mine.”
Maybe my subconscious decided it was time to treat me to some closure. Or maybe ghosts really visit us in dreams. I don’t know. But one night he appeared and said the words I need to hear:
“Everything is going to be okay. I know you think your life is over, but it’s just beginning. So many amazing things are going to happen.”
I fell asleep that night in my bedroom and I woke up in my mother’s yard, just before dawn. It was a busy night.
(Side note: somewhere on this blog is a detailed retelling of this particular dream, but I can’t find it. If you’re a longtime reader and you know where and when I shared that, please drop me a line).
Okay, maybe that’s not official “closure,” but it helped a lot. Of course there were still years of “working through it all” ahead of me. Many therapists, one night stands, drug binges, reckless behavior, top secret crying jags, and paralyzing anxiety lay ahead of me. But somehow that dream gave me the strength to wake up every day, when previously I had wished only for an endless sleep.
So this raises the question “If a mere dream can give one the will to move on, to live life again, then why, OH WHY, is closure even necessary?”
Last year I fell in love with someone and WOW, it was an ill-advised decision. When things ended, I thought I might just die. There was no closure, no true discussion of the topic “Why Is This Really Happening and What Happens Now.” Just silence. I chose that for both of us, I guess. My stubborn pride and my need to Really Think Things Through before I can truly explain myself often leads to long term silence. But later, I regretted that decision. I wrote a four-page letter explaining how I felt, now that I had had some time to decide how I felt. I pleaded for the chance to discuss all of it in person so both of us could feel better. But I received no real response. And that made me CRAZY: angry, self-destructive, and confused. I spent at least a month going directly to bed with a bottle of gin after coming home from work at 4 pm. It was a true Portland winter.
Summer is here. It’s not just the blue skies and longer days that make my life feel completely different from that sad, lonely winter. So much huge life change is on the near horizon. And to be honest, I’ve gotten myself tangled up in a completely different person (and it’s somehow even more confusing and complicated). I’ve spent the past few months treading emotional water in the frighteningly deep end of a pool I’ve never visited before. In some ways, the events of last year have allowed me to trick myself into believing that I am incapable of actually drowning in this situation. But this weekend, I ran into the aforementioned ex at a bar. The lack of closure and communication has created an unbearable situation wherein we can’t even utter a casual “hey,” much less look one another in the eye. I muttered “areyoufuckingkiddingme” as I whisked past him as fast as possible. As I waited for my drink, I found myself clinging to my friend Mary’s arm because I could feel myself literally shaking in my boots. I proceeded to drink myself numb and I fell asleep alone that night, trying to figure out why his presence shook me up.
Maybe I just want the sweet (but fleeting) taste of vindication that would accompany an apology from him. “I’m sorry” frequently has an impressive power for erasing a lot of bad feelings. But more likely, I just want to know that he occasionally misses me. I want to hear him say that he sees things that remind him of me and at those moments, he feels sorry about the trajectory we have taken. For all of these months, there has been an imaginary hole in my chest and it has the same dull throbbing of a toothache. Somehow his admission of regret would fill that up. Or at least I think it could? Or more likely (and this is the frightening part) that sense of closure would force me to admit that I’m already fully engaged in the here-and-now. SCARY.
Closure. It’s becoming a recurring theme in the stories I’ve been writing in the past few months. What do you think about it? Is it a true cure for what ails you? Or is it just a silly concept created by emo adults who have seen too many movies? Drop me an email if you have some strong opinions: firstname.lastname@example.org
Also, if you’re new-ish to this blog and you love sad, sad stories, I suggest choosing the “peeling an onion” threading and scrolling all the way back to the beginning.
AND OH YEAH! I promise that I’m going to be posting “mostly regularly” now.