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The Tear This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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I held my breath. I watched a tear roll down his cheek. More tears followed. He began to gasp for air and rub his forehead. My knees seemed to give out and I realized I was on the ground. Tears streamed down my cheeks.

His gasps grew to full sobs. They were clearly audible beneath the sniffles and sobs of my girlfriends. Surrounded by more than 20 friends, he stood, shaking in sadness and frustration. Nothing was held back. He wept with everything in his body. I couldn’t take my eyes off him, as he suffered in sudden pain and shock. The captain of the football team, sobbing without inhibition. I sat alone, watching, disbelieving what I was witnessing. The tears continued to fall onto his crisp blue shirt.

Had it suddenly hit him that his friend was dead? I had sobbed for two days and felt like I had nothing left inside me. I felt hollow. I felt empty. But his pain appeared raw. Maybe it hadn’t sunk in until he saw his friend’s body. I, too, had dismissed it as a bad dream until I saw his body laying on white satin.

Tears came, one after another. I sat alone, wanting to rationalize, to somehow get to the source that was causing him so much pain. I watched face after face walk out of the funeral-home door, with the emptiness I felt spread across their pale faces.

I looked at him, standing there in agony. The class clown, the “tough guy” who daily made me laugh in class. But something inside didn’t allow me to accept it as him. Something unfamiliar had seized his emotions. His usual coolness had succumbed to the powerful reality of fear and pain. I did not recognize him. Every tear that poured from his heart onto his shirt sent a painful feeling down my spine. I wanted so badly to embrace his large shoulders and tell him that it was going to be okay. But as I sat weeping, watching, I couldn’t accept it myself.

Seeing the flood of tears escape from his heart was all that I needed to see the reality of our shared situation. I had learned to justify my own tears, but it took more to accept his. I felt that if something could cause him to break down, something could put him through so much pain, there must be a lesson here. There was something too painfully scary and incomprehensible about a child’s death. No seventeen-year-old can justify their peer’s disappearance when they have earned the right to grow up.

As he continued to weep, I began to realize he wept for lack of understanding. He wept in fear of living without his friend. He also wept in fear of his own susceptibility. He saw a seventeen-year-old boy, athletic, funny and well-loved by his classmates, now surrounded by flowers and sympathy cards. He saw himself in that coffin, which clouded him with a fear he’d never felt so vividly.

Now he began to sniffle, trying to somehow quiet the burning sense of incomprehension ripping at his soul. He tried to erase the tears from his reddened cheeks. He turned his back to me and took a step away. But this could never be erased in my memory. My friend, the big, tough jock who never takes anything seriously, wept like a child that night.

And another tear rolled off my cheek.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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