I’ll say to the lecture hall full of latte-toting graduate students as they click down the volumes of their ringers and pull computers the size of chapter books from their oversized messenger bags. They unearth the tiny things so delicately as if they are pulling a young roo from the warmth of her mama’s pouch.
“While many of your peers have surely taken on studies that some might call more ‘practical,’ choosing to pursue advanced degrees in marketing or English, you are taking what others might call ‘the road less traveled.’ You are daring to master a concept that people struggle to grasp daily, wondering if it even exists. For a large man in red who slips down dirty chimneys once a year and a woman who flits around the bedrooms of second graders leaving shiny rewards after teeth have fallen from their heads both turned out to be imaginary so why should this exist either?
Closure. You, my friends, will be Masters in Closure by the end of this rigorous two-year curriculum. You will know how to answer the question that so many beings, young & old, with broken hearts and smashed souls ask, ‘Closure, does it even exist?’”
I’ll go on to tell the class my background. Growing up with the word always swinging from my eardrum as I eavesdropped on conversations ten years too old for me, always wondering what it meant and never understanding why we, as human beings, claim to need it so badly. I’ll tell them I spent a year closing windows. A year closing books. A year closing doors. Only to find out that I knew nothing more about closure than when I first began… Whatever this concept of closure was, it was far beyond windows. And Doors. And Books.
And that was the day I ripped the Columbia University pamphlet from my bedroom wall and decided to pursue a Masters in Closure instead of a Ph.D. in human rights. To know closure only to help others find it, as if it were the armchair beneath them all along.
“Now, before we move ahead to Suitcases 201, we must learn the basics of closure. So today we are going on a field trip to do just that.”
I will lead my herd of spec-wearing grad students right to the automatic entry doors of Home Depot.
Some will shake their heads in dismay, still believing closure is a thing to be learned in coffee shops. In libraries with plenty of books to close. In quiet hallways when the rest of the world is sleeping. In the flickers of flames. Not in stores filled with wood. And hammers. And nails.
We will walk down to Aisle 6 and I will allow them to meet a good friend of mine.
“Class, I would like to introduce you to the window…” I will say, standing before a collection of Cascading Clear Companions, their wooden frames aching for a curtain rod or potted plant to join them.
“Many of you have probably snuck out of her once or twice, watched a sunset beside her, saw the stars through her, or a few lucky ones of you have had someone throw rocks at your window one night and maybe, just maybe, your life changed because of it.”
For the next fifteen minutes or so I will have them practice closing windows. Opening. Closing. Opening. Closing. And then I will tell them why I think windows are so funny.
“Close a window three thousand times and you will still see right through…Acknowledgement; the first step to closure” I will tell the class. “A person cannot go forever pretending as if something didn’t happen. There will never be any closure in doing that.”
“And yet,” I’ll say, reopening the window and sitting on the edge of it, “So many people choose to live that way. They fall in love… they grow gardens of conversation out of words like ‘forever’ and ‘promises’ and ‘eternal’ and then it falls apart… And when we all should really be learning how to acknowledge it we find more supposed solitude in sweeping the entire thing into a corner… pretending like it never happened. Like it never Filled us. Like it never made our Days Rhyme Better and our Words Seem Stronger. Like it never Hurt us when it broke.”
“Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to let those memories breath… to say– even with a jagged ending still intact– that it happened. That it was good. That, if only for a moment, it danced around us like some sort of unspeakable magic. Like a Christmas carol erupting from the throats of Grand Central commuters in the middle of a June heat wave.”
And a student will raise her hand, inching her way up to the front to be seen, and ask, “But what about the people who would rather forget? Instead of acknowledging… some people would rather just forget.”
SLAM. I’ll shut the window in a dramatized fashion.
“Can you still see me now?”
“Class, wanting to forget doesn’t change the fact that a person will still wake up daily knowing a love story by heart, retracing the banter that came before the fight… Closure isn’t synonymous with forgetting. We would not go through these kinds of trials and hard times if they were simply made to be forgotten.
As crazy as it may seem, people were made to be loved, treasured, inspired and challenged. Tested, changed, but never forgotten.”
And then I will stop, stare at the class from left to right, and ask them to follow me to the doors in aisle 12.
I will tell them of the elderly woman I once met in the foyer of a nursing home. How she told me many stories. But the one that always stayed with me is the way she described her front door. The way it swung its hips so effortlessly, day after day, and how she never seemed to notice. Until the night her father walked out that door and never came back. “The door closed differently from that day forward,” she told me. “It made new noises. Empty noises. Even when it was slamming.”
“Class, what is more important than closing a door is what side you stand on when the door shuts. A rule in closure: “Never….never close a door from the inside out. Worst mistake you could make. You’ll be left standing there while the world goes on spinning. You’ll roam a house of Cloudy Nostalgia for bite-sized eternities before you ever see the life to be lived on the other side.”
“You will be surprised in your studies to find out how many people out there think that life won’t move forward, that no closure will come, unless they can sit down and have coffee with that person or finally talk over the phone. They sit in rooms made completely out of False Hope and they blame their inability to move forward on that coffee date that never came… the phone that never rang.”
“We are human though, isn’t that what we need sometimes to heal? Sometimes we need that face to face encounter again,” a wide-eyed young man with the etchings of a half past 5 o’clock shadow will ask.
“We think we need that…” I will respond. “We desperately cling to needing that because it keeps us from ever getting over it on our own… But I’ll be honest, it is awfully hard to heal if you are balancing your “o.k.”ness on someone else and a conversation that may never come.”
“You know, class, I don’t know much about God and this course won’t touch religion really but I find it hard to believe that He sat up in a cloud and spun us Empty, that he latched any possibility for our fullness on another Empty Being. That doesn’t seem so right.”
“You can close every book, every mouth, every door. You can close every window or every case, but closure comes from the inside and only when we are ready to take it into our own two hands. To stop making excuses. To stop hooking our closure to someone else. To let the resentment & anger & spite trickle away and just wish another person well. Even without that coffee date or phone call, wish them well and then say good night for now.”
“Class, we all forget this so easily: our souls are full whether we think it or not and the day is just beginning… Close the door and walk outside.”