closing lines

A short one

Many years ago, I watched Beckett's Waiting for Godot in the theatre. The play begins and ends with two men sitting on stage waiting for someone to come along and save them. Someone who never arrives. Even when the theatre goes dark and people filter out slowly, the actors stay there: figurines backlit by a soft glow. Still and immovable. Waiting forever.

The hardest part of most endings is seeking closure. There is a spoken word poem I think about all the time that begins with one day we simply stop getting tucked into bed at night as children. There are some endings that just don't get goodbyes. We grow up and leave some part of our past selves behind – habits, friends, specific dreams, but don't have the emotional capacity to formalize a goodbye for every single thing. In order to let go, we accept that at some point certain aspects of our life will leave fluidly and quietly. One night the pattern is broken and a new state replaces it. The river runs in one direction, and laps into the ocean, pooling into its new form.

In writing too, I always want closure – to have accumulated something by the end of every piece, coaxed something immaterial into emerging, even though I'm not entirely sure what that thing should be. A kernel of truth? A precise train of thought? Sometimes when I write I think, I need to slow this sentence down. Or else it will never end. It will just travel on, like Annie Dillard says, like a mathematical proof you can only follow so far until it loses you in its complexity. When I first learned to write, there was always a plotline – a swell of music from the beginning, crescendo, and then a denouement: the comedown from the euphoria. The sensible and emotionally fulfilling ending. But to survive contact with the surface of the world and somehow yield meaning, writing has to reflect the real world too: one that endures on incomplete information, full of abrupt endings.

I stayed up late last night reading the Italian author, Natalia Ginzburg: She has asked whether writing, for her, was a duty or a pleasure. Stupid. It was neither. At the best of times, it was, and is, her way of inhabiting the earth. To inhabit the earth is also to trust that most things are cyclical, rather than linear. To accept that some conclusions are self-enforced. To know all this and still pour sincere love into everything, even without the promise of closing lines.

Published by Nicole 3 years ago on Monday the 14th of December 2020.

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