It doesn’t matter, in the end. In the end there is a silence, perhaps the quiet we’ve been straining towards our entire life. In the end the truth is humble and confident, a wordless proclamation- all is over, and you may rest now.
We may tell each other- swear to each other- that it will get better; it is a nice sentiment. But I have seen destruction and I know now that some people can never be fixed. That some things will stay broken forever. That some pages were torn in the most crucial of places and thrown mercilessly into a frenzied wind. There will be no putting it back together. There is no hope in the wreckage. It just is. It is stronger than all attempts and the goodwill to change. It is stronger than everything, because it is irreparable at its essence, because something was ripped in a place so secret, we can never find it again and glue it together at the seams. It is a difficult thing for us to bear- the finality of some things. But they are, nevertheless, final.
We may grow stronger in the face of our pain, but we also grow quieter. Words lose their weight; they flutter pathetically, flapping their damaged wings, succumbing to the ashes. We may try to build structures, create an image of the suffering, of the loss that holds our faces in the night, but we flail- we are children clumsy in our eagerness.
We have no words to describe the things that hurt us most. All the tiny, significant details- the smells and the textures and the rush of the blood inside us- are scattered cross the floor of our minds, thousands shards of glass. And we struggle to assemble something decent together- something to give over to the people we trust, and we cannot- there is nothing to say. We try- spill forth hushed and shaky fragments, sentences that bleed: I was hurt. I’m haunted by the glint of his teeth; I’m haunted by the lilt of her laugh. One time I wanted to die. Sometimes I starve to feel the sharp agony; a comfort. I don’t think I really believe in love. I watched someone die once. I never got to mourn my failures; I am afraid of success, I am afraid of rejection, I am afraid of the ocean, of the graveyard, of men, I am afraid… How cold and alone these sentences lay, how they shiver in their nakedness. No one dares to scoop them up, to carry them somewhere warm. No one dares to look them in the face, to touch them. All these little ugly things we leave unsaid, they live huddled round the fire in the cave that is our heart; they have long become frightened of the sun.
One of my friends got tired of the wait, sick of the noise, wanted to cut short to the end. I told her I’d keep tabs on her, bring here Boston Kreme donuts every day, take her to the movies, challenge every demon in her mind to a duel and slice its head open on the concrete. I get it, I said. But don’t you dare touch those damn pills. Don’t you dare plunge into the darkness alone. Don’t you dare think you have the right . And the truth is, looking back- who was I to say that? Who are we to keep other people from pursuing the silence?
I don’t know much of death; I was little exposed. But I do know a bit about life; and what a tragedy life can become. How life can turn into a hole you’ve dug for yourself, a hole so deep and so dark that you’ve long despaired of an alternative- you’ve lost the shovel, the ladder, everything. How life can turn to something heavy and suffocating; a boulder on your chest, a burden you struggle to keep steady on your shoulders. How life can turn to something lonely and perplexing, to something that needs to be survived, tolerated. Life is a tragedy when you give in, when you lay down your weapons and surrender, when you hold your eyes closed against the current of the days and will yourself alive through the moments.
In the Torah, we are commanded to make a choice, every day, every single moment of our lives. G-d says: “I call today upon heaven and earth as witnesses for you. I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. And you shall choose life.” (Deuteronomy 30:19). Choose life… Choose ice cream in the snow fall. Choose to tell her, “I love you.” Choose to go running in the rain, till your skin is drenched and your calves burn and your shoulders and legs tremble. Choose to laugh with abandon and to cry in the theater. Choose books at the fireplace and buying your friend a caramel latte with whipped cream, on a Monday, just because. Choose freedom. Choose traveling cross country with a backpack and a thirsty mind and a swollen heart. Choose the dollar bill crumbled in your back pocket, choose the guy cradling the scribbled Starbucks cup on the sidewalk- choose mercy. Choose giving in even when you know you’re right. Choose parasailing, and biking, and hiking forest trails swathed in sunlight. Choose to love, to throw caution to the wind and feed pieces of yourself to all the people in your life; choose your life, choose to live.
And in the end, there will be no music. Not even your favorite song. In the end there will be no pledges, no reassurances, no explanations. There will be no laughter, no shouting, not even a whisper. There will be no sudden subways growling by, no car horns or dog barks or rude ringtones slicing the air. There will be no words, no sounds, no prayer. There will be only you- your mouth and your throat and your heart scraped raw and tender, your life unfurling, gently, like a blanket over grass. Your essence, stunned and shy. In the end, there will be the discovery. You will find the silence in the screaming. And you will find your self in the silence.