Tracks of a Tear
Anita had a sweet way of looking at things. She tried to not just see what someone was doing, but be able to picture their story. Each person she saw, she gave a descriptive line.
Fred worked on a block with four banks on it.
Louie always looked straight ahead.
Grover dreamed of bubbles.
Lana enjoyed being lonely.
Then, one day, she found a tear, warm and salty and carrying great sorrow. And wondered…
“Who do you belong to?”
Big Bob was confident, loud. Chest out and proud.
“Sometimes it’s the ones you least suspect…” Anita whispered to herself. Then asked. “Bob, what makes you cry?”
“Ha! Nothing!” Big Bob bragged. “What a joke!”
But, when he turned the corner and thought he was alone…
“I miss you, Mum,” he sobbed. She had died years before.
Eventually, Big Bob wiped away his tears, practiced his smile until the red in his eyes was gone, and brashly strut back into the street. Anita slinked across and compared the tears, but they didn’t match.
Next, she watched Lonely Lana.
“Does it bother you that other kids tease you?” Anita asked.
Lana just laughed.
“Usually, I cry for no reason at all,” she confessed. “I just feel sad… and…” she shrugged, “…cry.”
Lana’s tears were like small rainbow worlds. They didn’t match at all.
Nor did Miette’s, who would cry with rage at all the injustice in the world!
Or Morgan’s who would wail and moan over things so secret, nobody knew. Not even Morgan.
“But why are you so sad?” Anita asked.
“I can’t tell you. I won’t. I don’t know.”
Vince always did his own thing. He was the coolest cat in class. But hidden, alone, he cried because he didn’t fit in. Because he didn’t want to fit in! Because he didn’t know what he wanted!
Because some big, invisible feeling made him scared.
“I’m worried,” he whispered in the dark.
Wahjata cried because he missed home.
Murphy was gnarly, he looked like he’s never cried in his 50 years of life! But sometimes he bawled over the bad things he’d done, the bad man he’d once been.
“I can’t escape me,” he sobbed.
Miss Gullock, cried because the students were cruel.
The art teacher, Miss Capes, cried because they were so wonderful it filled her with hurt.
“A good hurt,” she insisted. “It feels warm.”
The baby cried because she was scared of being abandoned.
Theo, sent to the principle’s office, waiting for punishments again, cried with frustration.
Toby watched his daughter playing, and cried, with he didn’t know what. Maybe pride? “Was my youth so bad, that hers seems so good?” he wondered aloud.
Old Man Azzapardi cried, sometimes, because he was trapped in a frail body. “I was once strong!” he would mumble. “Invincible!”
Jules, because she’d been bullied every day of her life.
And Anita spied, and listened to the things people mumbled, grumbled and spat under their breath, and caught their tears.
She watched everybody on the street, all those hidden tears, walking through their everyday. Buckets of tears, rivers! Sadness of all shapes and shades. So many different ways to sniffle, or quietly moan.
So many secrets untold.
“This is too much,” she whispered to no-one.
Then she met Birrell, who was always down and out, sitting where he always did, outside the supermarket, on the ground.
She didn’t have to hide for him. Tears rolled down his face, for all to see.
“What’s wrong?” Anita asked.
“My dog ran away,” he said.
Anita looked at the empty bedding, the chewed bone, the tired old lead. She had never seen Birrell without his dog. Not ever! No car, house, family, she had never seen Birrell with anyone or thing else. No car, no house. It was like that dog was his soul.
“Gone…” he sighed.
And Anita cried.
Oh, her dam burst, she wailed! She wept for every reason. She wept for everyone. It was horrible!
Tears never end, she thought. They just dry for a while.
She felt lost, lost as if everything was damaged, as if she might drown. She began to wonder if this hunt had broken something inside her.
She cried as if falling.
Eventually, “Be glad,” a voice said. It was Birrell. “In hurt you feel,” he told her.
Anita wiped her nose with her sleeve. Sniffed.
“I don’t know what that means,” she admitted.
“If I didn’t love my dog, I wouldn’t be sad,” he said. “And I love her so much! In hurt you feel,” he repeated, slowly, as if contemplating his own thoughts.
Birrell touched Anita’s wet cheek. “It’s healthy, crying,” he said, with a sad smile. “The other option is to feel nothing at all.”
Anita would never have thought Birrell could be so thoughtful, so full of love. This raggedy man.
She watched him go, shoulders slumped, yet proud.
Anita’s tears continued to fall. They worked their way down her cheeks, and off her chin, several of them landing beside the one she’d found. A perfect match, but she never looked down.
Anita kept looking for the tear’s owner, day after day, fascinated with the people she thought she knew, but only now found.