The Tears of Man This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

August 7, 2014
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Vera sat at her desk, staring at the blank screen that lay before her. She couldn’t bring herself to do it. She couldn’t write something she didn’t believe in. Patty, her yellow lab, paused outside her door, his ears perked, then trotted over to her chair, sat down, and looked up worriedly at Vera’s confused face. She rubbed his ears. “Hey, Patty.”

“Vera! How long have you been sitting there? That paper is due tomorrow and I sent you to write it an hour ago!” Vera’s mother stood outside her room, with her hands on her hips and a disapproving look on her face. Her dark hair and eyes were a mirror image of Vera’s, but the two were different in every other way possible.

“I can’t write this paper, Mom.”

“What do you mean you can’t write it? You have to – it’s for school.”

“I don’t agree with the assignment.” Vera looked down at her hands, preparing for an argument.

“There’s nothing controversial about Rousseau, Vera.” Her mother’s tone contained a hint of warning. Vera looked up from her hands, eyes blazing and heart pounding with anger.

“Nothing controversial? You really think so? So you agree that women were put on this earth to please and serve men?” Her mother’s eyes widened and she looked around the room, as if afraid that someone might have heard the blasphemy that her daughter had uttered. She quickly closed the door.

“Vera, you know better than anyone else what happened with the first female President of the United States. You should, considering your father is the President. It was she who helped us realize that women should not hold positions of authority.” Her mother stood up straighter and lifted her chin. “It is a woman’s sacred duty to serve man. We are not meant to be competition.” Vera felt as if she might puke. She couldn’t believe she lived in a world where this was accepted. She couldn’t believe there had been such a regression in the 40 years since Bertha Woodright won the 2020 presidential election.

“Just because one woman had a mental breakdown while in office does not mean that all females are weak. Throughout history men have constantly been searching for ways to keep women uneducated and insignificant in society. This is just another example of that! Have you not read The Second Sex?”

Her mother’s eyes just about popped out of her head. She looked as if she was about to strangle Vera. “That book is forbidden. I don’t know how in the world you got a hold of it but it’s no wonder you have such crazy ideas crammed in your head. You’re grounded.”
“For reading something that speaks the truth? For wanting to actually learn something when I go to school instead of how to cook and put on make-up and act ditzy like all the other girls that surround me?”

“So now you’re ungrateful for your education?”

“It’s not a healthy education! Underlying every lesson is the message of our inferiority!”

Her mom stood silent for a long moment, and then took a deep breathe. “Vera, I know this might be difficult for you to understand, but men are stronger. That’s just how it is. They do not have issues with emotion. They think with their head, not with their hormones. It’s nature. I am leaving now, and you will write that paper. I’m going to speak to your father about this. Your punishment will not be light.”

With that she left the room, taking Patty with her. Vera stared at the blank screen, then furiously began write an essay that tore apart Rousseau like a piece of paper.

* * * * * * * *

Vera crept up the stairs as quietly as she could. She was going to hide The Second Sex in one of the rooms upstairs, because she knew her mother would not rest until she had found the book and burned it. It was the only publication she had ever read in hard copy. Paper was scarce nowadays, and this book was her little treasure from the past. Every once in a while she would have to dodge a servant. She didn’t understand why they were always cleaning the rooms that no one used. Their constant presence was one of the downsides to living in the White House.

She continued to creep down the hallway when she noticed a sliver of light coming from her parents’ room. The door was cracked slightly open. She heard a faint noise, but couldn’t place what it was. She sat down in front of the door and put her eye up to the crack. She could see her dad sitting on the edge of his bed. His shoulders were shaking and his hands were covering his face. After a moment he lifted his head and she could see the tears that stained his cheeks. She watched for a very long moment before she stood up silently and continued to search for a place to hide her treasure.
* * * * * * * *

Vera logged onto her computer and opened up her email. Her mother had taken away her iPad 180, Kindle 360, and blocked every site on her computer that would’ve possibly kept her entertained, except her email and the school page. She had thrown a fit when she couldn’t find the book, and increased the grounding by a few more weeks when Vera wouldn’t tell her where it was. All this didn’t bother her very much. Maybe if she baked a cake her mother would forgive her.
She tapped on the message from her school and up popped her essay, along with commentary. Vera smiled. She had earned an F, and her teacher wanted to speak with her parents.

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