I am a firm believer in pushing my emotions down, particularly when it comes to sad things. I don’t really know why I’m that way, but I’ve always been bad at dealing with sadness, and there is a sense of shame I get from crying in front of people.
Maybe it stems from watching the movie Old Yeller as a child and being horrified after watching Travis shoot his best friend. Rabid or not, I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I remember the salty tears pouring down my cheeks and sobbing in shock as my brother looked on at me, appalled that I couldn’t separate the fact that it was not only a movie, but the necessity to shoot a dog with rabies. Oh yea, spoiler alert.
Push it down. Think of something else.
That’s my mantra when it comes to public crying, but it doesn’t always work out the way I plan it. I tend to have a rougher exterior, always wearing my resting bitch face proudly. I don’t always have a lot of patience for the Seattle softies, as I’m sure is fairly evident with the stories I have told.
After returning from a work trip recently, I decided to sit on the rooftop deck of my new apartment and enjoy the Seattle sunshine that finally decided to show up this year. I grabbed the book my mom recommended to me, “The Nightingale,” and lounged in a chair taking in every word.
Yes, it’s a book about the Holocaust. Yes, I knew in my heart everyone wasn’t going to come out of it unscathed. But it was a book. Fiction. I wanted to finish it before I started back to work the next week.
I was close to the end, when it took a turn that shocked me so much I felt the overwhelming sense of tears start to build up. I looked around, grateful no one had come to join me on the roof since, even with my sunglasses, I was starting to get blurry eyed and feel my nose start to run.
Push it down. It’s only fiction. It’s a book. Get a hold of yourself.
I felt the tears spill over, and was glad to be wearing sunglasses as I wiped the tears away.
Right then I felt someone beside me. And I heard the pitter patter of dog paws coming toward me. I looked up and saw literally the only other people I know in the apartment building coming toward me with their dog.
DAMN IT! I thought to myself. Could the dog smell my tears? Is that why she was charging toward me?
I apologized to my friend, who, to add salt to the wound, I also happen to work with.
She looked at me like I was losing my mind, as I explained that I was “just finishing up a really sad book.” She nodded, told me she was walking the dog, and then never reappeared again and clearly took a different route off of the roof to avoid the awkwardness that I had just caused.
Oh well. Just finish the book.
But then the waterworks started again, and I heard someone else coming. I figured it wasn’t a big deal. I wasn’t going to be making friends in my new apartment building today, and I wasn’t overly concerned about that. I would just have to be the crying girl upstairs on the roof to some rando who lived in my building and hide my face in shame every time I saw him. Or act like I didn’t remember ever seeing him before and ignore that it had happened. I could deal with either of those outcomes.
That’s when I heard it.
“And here you’ll see our lovely rooftop area that our residents like to use to enjoy and relax.”
I looked up through my tears in horror, makeup streaked face poorly masked behind my sunglasses, at one of the women who works in the building giving a tour of the apartment to a prospective resident. Both of whom quickly looked at me and looked away.
“And here you’ll see the chicken coops…we are working on getting chickens and then you guys can have the eggs they lay,” she said as she ushered the girl away from the only person “enjoying” the rooftop who was sobbing alone with a book.
As if free eggs could block her memory from the fact that people come up to this roof to cry.
She didn’t seem that cool anyways. It’s probably better that she didn’t move into the building. I figure I probably did them a favor.
I finished the book, which was excellent, by the way, and highly recommended. I texted my mom, thanking her for telling me what a great idea it was when I told her my plans to enjoy the sunshine and finish her book recommendation.
She laughed as I told the tale of claiming the title of emotionally unstable girl in the apartment.
Then I continued my rant. Because it isn’t the first time she’s recommended a book to me without the asterisk that, “Hey, this one’s a tear jerker, so you may want to read it in the privacy of your own home.”
I was reading another one of her recommendations years ago and started welling up at a sad part while I was on a plane.
That’s right. I would be so uncomfortable next to someone crying on a plane. Hell, I was once on a flight with a girl who randomly started laughing, and I was up in the air between if she overheard some random conversation I had missed that was hilarious or if she was simply an escapee of the loony bin. By the end of the flight, I put my money on the latter.
So there I sat, crying on a plane, apologizing to the person next to me. And I found myself in the same situation then, texting my mom, “Thanks for making me a public crier.”
Though I suppose it’s good to know that somewhere under my resting bitch face and heart of stone, there is an actual empathetic human being.