If Only I Could Cry This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

August 4, 2011
So I was sitting outside the funeral home last December trying to open a Snickers bar with my chapped hands. It was one of those chafingly cold days when the sun is high in the sky and I was just aching for it to come down and warm me but the wind opposed it.

I was sobbing slightly as I watched the leaves breeze away from me in tiny swirls. Actually, a more accurate description would be that I was choking on my sobs and saw the leaves through a thin haze of tears which, of course, I hastily wiped away. Because I was a boy. And boys don’t cry. We just don’t.

But, gimme a break. It was my grandfather’s funeral; I was alone outside finding solace from my Snickers, nobody would know. Yet I still couldn’t do it. And inside the funeral home? Forget it. Couldn’t happen. I was worried people would think I didn’t even like the guy since I was shedding about as many tears as he was. But oh man, I wanted to. I wanted to pour out all my sadness and anger. Just let go. Just let it wash away. It hurt so much.

He had had Parkinson’s and I watched while he weakened and shrank until he wasn’t even a whisper of the man he used to be. I remember walking through the woods to my grandparents’ house, bracing myself for the inevitable pain of the visit. My grandfather would enthusiastically say, in his feeble, coarse voice, “Hey, look who’s here!” I’d approach his wheelchair, push out a smile, swallow the lump in my throat, and forcefully blink back my tears. Then I would shout, in an equally forced voice, “Hey, Pop, how’s it goin’?” And it was such a shame. This rock of a man, this rock of a husband, father, and grandfather reduced to such a pitiful state. And there I stood, like some actor from a bad school play, a goofy grin plastered on my face. All I really wanted to do was burst into tears and beat the life out of something.

If only I could cry. I want to cry the way breath is exhaled. Pushed out in one big, flushing gust. I feel unreal in a sad situation when I don’t cry. What kind of a monster doesn’t cry at his grandfather’s funeral? At his sister’s wedding? Me. But I’m not a monster, right? I’m just a boy. Ha.

Crying should be as natural as laughing or smiling. Is it a natural expression of strong emotions? That is what upsets me the most. I consider myself to be a loving, open, and expressive person. It scares and upsets me when I just can’t get my body to do something that I feel is so vital to the process of clearing my soul. Oh, well, I’ll keep trying.

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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