The Last Time I Cried

The last time I cried was a year ago, when I was informed of the passing of a woman I cherished. Death, it seems, is the bar for my tears. Sad movies, stranded polar bears, the plight of children in war torn countries—nothing else brings me to that threshold. Sometimes I try to coax the tears; the closest I get is a slight pull in my throat. I assume that I still can weep, but someone must die to prove it.

At first I thought it could be a side effect of Paxil, which I take for anxiety. I asked others who take this drug and they all said no, they can cry just fine. Given this testimony, the low dosage I require, and the fact that I started on Paxil years before my tears dried up, I doubt my problem is drug-related. In any case, it doesn’t matter: no way am I going back to living with my default mode stuck on panic.

So what did happen to me? It is not uncommon for people to become more jaded as they get older, and I am in fact “older.” Did I glimpse one too many photos of oil-covered seagulls? Have I hardened off in the past few years, turned numb to sadness and madness? I do not feel numb. You know those videos on social media where a dog is drowning, or a baby elephant can’t pull itself out of the mud? Even aware these clips end well, I cannot bear to watch them. And then there’s the minefield of current events. Each morning I open my iPad and tiptoe through the news, avoiding the climate section entirely.

Maybe my body is protecting me, operating on a level beyond my understanding, the way traumatic memories sink into the abyss of subconsciousness. In stemming my tears, my body could simply be trying to survive a little longer by withholding emotions that might undo me. But if this is so, why do I still feel despair and sorrow, and what about the reputed benefits of a good cry, how it detoxifies the body, clears the chakras?

On the scale of human afflictions, not being able to cry wouldn’t even move the needle, and really, is it a problem? Not being able to laugh—now that would be unfortunate. Humor is a stronghold, maybe our last.

Still, this dry-eyed life makes me feel lonely sometimes, and self-conscious, as if I am missing a measure of humanity. Watching some heartbreaking movie, I’ll look over at my wife and see tears streaming down her face as the closing music swells, and something close to jealousy climbs up my chest. She is experiencing something, fully, and I am shut out.

The internet probably clamors with people like me. There must be chat rooms, support groups, therapists who specialize in this disorder, if it can be called that. I wonder how listless I’d have to become to seek such support. My life would have to shrink to the size of an atom. There could be no plants to feed, no backyard birds to watch, no meals to plan, no partner to laugh with, no cat to cuddle, no coffee on the patio, no luck to ponder.

With all this—more than I ever hoped for—maybe there’s just no room left for tears. 

Published by

Jean Ryan

Jean Ryan, a native Vermonter, lives in Lillian, Alabama. Her stories and essays have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies. She has also published a novel, LOST SISTER. Her short story collections, SURVIVAL SKILLS and LOVERS AND LONERS, are available online. STRANGE COMPANY, a collection of short nature essays, is available in paperback as well as digital and audio editions.

10 thoughts on “The Last Time I Cried

  1. I rarely cry also. But when my sense of humor leaves me, I despair and know I am in a dark place. If We had to choose between never crying again or never laughing again, it would be a quick decision: laughing is the kinky way I’ve made it through. But sometimes I need to cry. It just never happens. And then every few decades I sob. Love your writing!

  2. I saved this to read while enjoying my morning coffee. Little did I know the powerful emotional reaction I would have after having just woke up. This “disorder” is real. It is something that sits on the perimeter of my mind. I too wouldn’t mind that clearing of the chakras. You knocked this one into the ether.

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