Thing 28: The Ending

The ending comes as no surprise. The ending comes a day late and a dollar short. You wish you could change the ending but it’s always too late. The ending justifies the meaning, or vice versa. You keep putting off the ending, but you know it will eventually arrive. The ending is teleological. The ending gives shape and definition to your existence. Without the ending you would drift, endlessly. You have nightmares of infinity. The ending is your satisfaction and your disappointment. The ending is the point at which order is restored and new things begin. The ending is in the air, apparent. Everything that begins must rise and converge.

When Saddam Hussein was executed, I was traveling between Philadelphia and Chicago, waiting for the boarding announcement at the Philadelphia airport. They played the footage over and over again on CNN, on the screens throughout the terminal. I looked at all the faces around me and I wasn’t sure how to read them. Disgust? Satisfaction? A lot of ambiguity was in the air. The children all looked confused. They had questions and their parents would later have to answer them. I wondered how many of them were flying for the first time. It occurred to me that I had never before watched a hanging. They walked him across the gallows to the trapdoor. He refused the hood. They derided him. He looked fearful and defiant and courageous. How many of the children were flying for the first time and how many of them remembered September 11th? There was no connection between this and that but for fear and causality. How would I explain this to them, to the children hugging their teddy bears and clutching their blankets tightly, excited and anxious about their first flight, watching a hanging, over and over again? There are chains of events in the world. These things won’t always make sense, and in the end the world is often quite a brutal place. But airplanes hardly ever crash, and even though all that seems so close to you now, it is really far, far away from us. We are safe here and I will buy you an ice cream now. Let’s go.

We remember the first fire, the first car crash, the first televised catastrophe, the first assassination, the first death we see first hand. We remember the man falling to the ground clutching his chest in agony, the tightening of the noose to the condemned man’s neck. We’re more inclined to forget the first time we taste strawberries or the first time we dance. These endings frame our lives, every tragic one of them.

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