I don’t know what’s wrong with me lately. Maybe for once it’s really not me that’s at fault. Maybe it’s The 2012 Best American Short Stories collection that I have been reading. I have cried suddenly and uncontrollably over several passages. None of them were overtly sentimental. Certainly for a collection of this caliber you would not expect a blatant tearjerker. Melodramas are considered to be uncouth and frown upon. Perhaps it’s the understatement, the deliberate nonchalance that tricked me into reacting to them so violently on a subconscious level. An unadorned sentence described in passing the disjointed human interactions plainly yet accurately so much so that I had to pause to feel it inside the hollow of my body. I caught my breath as I caught the profound sadness.
Then, while she is sitting on the toilet, she sinks into the special sorrow of peeing while your mother is out cold on the floor next to you.
She dreams vividly, then can’t call up the dreams on waking, but carries through the day their emotional tone, an echo from the blackout chasm of Darlyn’s free fall. She can hear her soft scream as she tumbles down again and again. This is the harrowing/fabulous form in which love has come to her.
From “The Last Speaker of the Language” by Carol Anshaw, originally appeared in New Ohio Review, which you could read here.
And then the tears came.
The tears came unrelentingly. They flowed with little effort and I was amazed at how much water was stored behind my eyes. The gentle, continuous flow made me wonder whether I was indeed crying. I sat there, with tears falling in silence, until I was caught by an urge to just give in.
Let it out. I said to myself. Just bawl your eyes out. Fling yourself on the bed and bury your face into a pillow. You know, the way you cried when you were a kid. When you broke your favorite porcelain doll that played Für Elise when you wound the knob on the bottom. Or when you came home from school after yet another day of nobody making eye contact. Or when you missed your parents while you were staying at a relative’s house and your cousin was being a brat and was mean to you.
When was the last day I had a good cry like that I don’t even remember.
I had not anticipated the tears as I opened up my Kindle after the plane took off. Something caught on the edge of my neurosis I guess and I simply came undone. At first I ignored the tears and wiped them away surreptitiously with my fingers. Again and again. I stopped reading and closed my eye, willing the deluge to stop. Still the tears continued. I wanted to stay away from clichés such as broken faucet, waterfall, fire hose, but really these would be the most effective way of making you understand the trouble I was having, sitting on a packed plane.
I tilted my head towards the window and angled my body away from the person next to me, worrying that the telltale movement of wiping my face with the heels of my palms would give me away. I soon discovered that not wanting to cry on a plane is very much like not wanting to cough in a movie theatre: Alas, your needing to control it somehow only makes the urge uncontrollable and worse.
Next I was heaving for air. My shoulders trembled. My chest rose and fell. My hands moved like windshield wipers.
I hope nobody notices what a mess I am.
On the other hand, I was wishing someone would have handed me a Kleenex.
I would have started bawling. So it’s probably good that nobody did.