Prose by Tommy Paley
Real tears that dribble down my face announcing to the world and those in close proximity or with binoculars that I am either hurt or sensitive or just want my mommy.
“Why can’t it be all three,” I always say while trying to win a staring contest with my reflection in the hallway mirror.
Or maybe I’m just a really fine actor like the ones in those shows at 3:00 pm that no one with an actual life watches.
Right, those ones.
Real tears that are aiming for empathy or sympathy, but often settle for pity.
And you thought it was rain.
Cause my tears are wet, by the way, like really wet.
To get an accurate idea of just how salty, imagine a liquid that is not salty at all, and, well, my tears are like the opposite of that.
And they flow like fine wine or aged vinegar or even, on a good day, like premium motor oil that is on sale for the low price of $24.99 at the grocery store which is supposed to distract me from the question of why the grocery store is selling motor oil “if they don’t want me to drink it, mom!”
Some days I’m so upset that nothing cheers me up except slowing pouring out large quantities of motor oil into kiddie pools for the little ones to frolic in.
“Frolicking little ones” was my childhood nickname for my gang of imaginary friends who never ceased to “hit me where it hurt” and then, as I cried, remind me just how imaginary they were while also trying to convince me, with varying degrees of success, that I was imaginary too.
Huge, comically-large crocodile tears are produced along with the accompanying pleading and whining and crocodile-like skin texture.
What can I say, I’m a triple-threat.
Crocodile tears, in case you didn’t know, are super-hard to arrange because renting a crocodile is not as easy as it sounds on short notice and then rendering said crocodile to tears is challenging unless you happen to know its triggers or if you get a particularly morose crocodile— luckily I both know a guy and am writing facetiously.
“Morose Crocodile” was also my go-to character during improv scenes in high school.
Strangely, I wasn’t a hit with the ladies, though a small group of neighborhood reptile enthusiasts allowed me to tag along if I brought snacks.
The only difference between me and a crocodile, is my tears are real and I have slightly better manners and that’s all thanks to you, mom and dad!
‘Salty and delicious’, the ads for my tears would say, if there were ads for tears and I got chosen in the auditions for having incredible tear ducts.
True story, I once went three years without anyone noticing I even had ducts and that included myself as well.
I like enthusiastically referring to those tear ducts as “the factory where the action happens”; so enthusiastically that I’ve been banned from the local park during dog-walking hours.
These tears, roll off my chin and down my chest and, somehow, pool up on my elbows for a short time, before they drop, dramatically to the ground and form puddles all around me.
My children spend hours splashing in those puddles which helps mitigate any confusing and complicated feelings in them like “concern” and “empathy” and “wishing for a dad who was at least slightly stereotypically male at least when their friends were over”.
Just like old times, like when I was, by all accounts, an adorable little baby who “should have been in pictures” and “gives us faith in humanity” and “should be blinking more”.
Trying to tap into my “inner baby”, I put on sad songs — like anything sung in 3/4 time — and I look out the window and off into the distance avoiding eye contact with the dog across the street who is really funny looking, and I go to those deep places inside and wait for the waterworks to begin.
I’m like a damn Monopoly utility in more ways that I can count!
Back when I was young, it was socially acceptable to cry and people commented how cute I was even when wailing unless at a movie theater or an impromptu open heart surgery which were quite popular in my neighborhood.
To this day, my eyes glaze over, which is super dangerous when driving or operating heavy duty machinery or basting poultry, and I’ll get lost in the past.
Once it took days to find my way back.
See, I’m dangerously nearsighted.
Assaulted by melancholy and, to a lesser degree, border collies, and, to an even lesser degree, florists, I think about days gone by and, for some odd reason, tennis balls.
Wishing I could go back in time and fix things or have a redo or at least not buy so much discounted paint because what am I supposed to do with all of this paint now?
Saying what I should have said or letting a special someone know how much I cared or not wearing that certain sweater to the dance that everyone agreed was “hideous” and “disgusting” and “proof that there is no God.”
Hilarious-to-all-except-my-wife-and-local-accountants fake tears that look like it was just raining on my face because I happen to enjoy walking in the rain while fake crying.
It’s like I’m in a poem 24–7!
Stop judging me or at least judge me more quietly and without the use of pom poms.
Crying over broken promises and broken hearts and broken piggy banks that held precisely $1.35.
Crying over spilled milk and the remaining milk that didn’t spill because I couldn’t even do that right.
Crying over ripped pants and twisted ankles and helium balloons that floated away, but not for the balloon itself, but more the wasted helium.
It’s how I was raised.
It all makes me sad.
Like trying to get refunds from department stores and sympathy from friends and loved ones and, occasionally, refunds from those very friends and loved ones whom it often feels are “dressing up like neurosurgeons” or “exploring the wonderful world of extortion” or “opportunely pretending they both don’t speak English and no longer understand anything about the concept of money”.
Weeping and weeping like a record skipping on a turntable and doing so on a regular basis like a willow that all of the other willows are, quite frankly, a bit embarrassed by, but what are they going to do, they are willows.
I sometime wished I could be a tree; stoic and covered with bark.
Tall and emotionally together not like those bushes who clearly are in need of professional help.
What can I say — tears just build up inside me like a clogged sink or toilet or like when you try to inhale your entire lunch in one bite on a dare and can’t breathe, though my understanding of my own internal plumbing is non-existent at best.
I cry at the drop of a hat and not even a very large and heavy one — no, I’m talking some really small and inconsequential hats.
I just find the purposeful dropping of both head ware and expensive hair products incredibly depressing.
Also depressing, rabbits who find hopping disdainful.
And piano teachers with less than impeccable posture.
Crying at times like when that girl I liked a lot back in grade 6 told everyone the secrets I shared with her. She even took out a spot on the local radio station and ran a series of articles in the paper that were really really harsh and uncalled for, but, and I have to admit, impressively well punctuated.
I couldn’t stay mad at her as even her semi-colons were divine.
The secrets I shared with her weren’t even true at all — that’s right, including the very detailed part about my in-depth feelings for her and her Barbie collection that I didn’t completely understand.
I was only 12.
Crying when someone leaves me, like my cat, who, after considering his options, decided to spend some quality time with a local group of coyotes.
Or when my dental hygienist dropped everything, including both my mouthguard and my heart, and ran away to join the circus.
Could she be any more hurtful and predictable?
Or when you left.
You know who you are.
Now, those were tears.
And I always will.