We think we stopped crying on a Thursday. Those of us who were at funerals or who gave birth that day remember it best for the troubling absence of tears. The rest of us only have faint memories of pride for that day when we didn’t cry in the middle of a fight, while wrangling our kids at the grocery store, or when we couldn’t fall asleep.
After a few weeks it was obvious that all of us past the point of puberty had lost the ability to cry. This spurred many theories–it was the estrogen, it was the extra X chromosome, it was some new brand of hysteria.
We were confused but not unhappy. We enjoyed the freedom to get angry without the threat of our tears speaking over us. Together we laughed about how it was easier to feel everything without runny mascara or puffy eyes to conceal.
A few months later we were all bigger. The doctors said it was a buildup of excess salt from unshed tears that had left our bodies bloated. Stores quickly stocked larger sizes and broader fits of clothing. We ignored the men’s whispers about whether they preferred us with or without the new curves.
Speaking of the men, everyone wondered why this had never happened to them. After all, some hadn’t cried for many years.
A pundit asked, “Could it be the difference between can’t cry versus won’t cry?”
“I don’t know,” the expert said.
We shook our heads at this non-answer and were glad to not have a choice in the matter.
Then, a woman from Singapore reported that she couldn’t take a bath. The science told us this: all that salt in our bodies seeped out when we were submerged in water. So much so, that we became buoyant. In a space as small as a bathtub there wasn’t enough room to float and, like this woman in Singapore, we would be lifted out onto the bathroom floor. In the ocean we floated as if on giant inner tubes. Tourists at the Dead Sea claimed that they could jump in and be spit right back out with enough force to catch a moment of stillness in the air. We nearly walked on water.
Soon came the discovery that we could disinfect. An all-natural, human based sodium chloride solution that could clean wounds and water. Now, when it rains, we stand naked outside and let the droplets wash over us. By the time it has flowed from our scalps to our feet the water is fresh enough to drink.
We don’t know how long this will last or if it will continue to the next generation. Many invite their young daughters out with them to join in the ritual. Our husbands, brothers, fathers, and sons stay inside with warm towels waiting for when the skies clear.
If anyone has cried again, they have not spoken of it. Once, back in the beginning, some of us confided that we missed the tears and the catharsis that came with their release. Now, when it rains, the environment pulses with our hearts; we do not shield ourselves against the impact but instead let the elements work through us.
Lauren Cortese is a fiction writer from Annapolis, Maryland. Last spring she completed her MFA at the College of Charleston and has begun PhD studies at the University of East Anglia. She is currently working on her first novel.