This post has been inspired by a November conspiracy of particularly vivid dreams, life’s recent realities and a high volume of people searching the terms, women crying and women’s tears. It is also inspired by another reality: the only freaking thing being a lesbian might protect you from in life is an accidental pregnancy.
This was my dream: she’s crying. Each tear that spills from her eyes starts a ripple in the ocean of our world. We sit together, leaning into each other, my forehead to her forehead, my hands holding hers. There aren’t any words. She’s crying. I wrap us in a thought and notice there’s a sound echoing between us that isn’t the sound of tears, that isn’t the sound of closeness, that isn’t the sound of us. I move to look at her but she’s gone. When I wake up, my ears hurt and my eyes are wet and there’s a sound from far away.
Only once and only for a moment did my throat tighten, did tears threaten to escape from where I’m holding them. That moment was as we round the curve of the path that leads to the stairs into the church. We’re the last few people up those stairs and through the doors. On the street, behind us is a dark Hearse, the back doors open, and a casket on some contraption. The casket is draped in white. A group of sombre-looking men of varying ages in dark suits surround it, ready to lift it, carry it on their shoulders, walk slowly, awkwardly up the steps and into the church, up the aisle between the pews to place it on the bier that’s waiting at the front of the altar.
We sit down near the back, on the right side. All heads turn to look back at the open doors. The casket draped in white is now being carried by the sombre-looking men. They are moving slowly, awkwardly up the aisle. Following the casket is the family. Three of them walking slowly, arms linked. I look for her. To see her face. She isn’t crying. I won’t either. I also won’t look beside me to see if there are tears in the eyes of the women next to me. I look back to the procession and bite my lip to stop myself from laughing: her sister is wearing the highest, blackest come-fuck-me pumps I have ever seen which matches none-too-perfectly the little, sleeveless black dress she’s wearing. It occurs to me that the tears streaming down sister’s face is because her feet are screaming in agony.
I didn’t know the songs so I didn’t sing them.
The priest says everyone these days wants to do a eulogy.
“You don’t need to do a eulogy!” he says in his Ecuadorian-accented English.
There are three short readings from a Bible.
She doesn’t trust herself to speak so she’s written something for her brother to read. He reads it well. It’s perfect and true.
I am not of the faith, so can’t kneel or go for a taste of the wafer and the wine when everyone else does. The women I’m with are walking slowly back to the pew, their heads bowed and their hands clasped, looking all serious and somber and beautiful, each of them trying to deal with their tongues sticking to the roof of their mouth on account of the wafer’s mysteriously sticky composition designed to keep mouths closed, a wafer representative of something I do not understand.
I hate funerals.
When the service is over, everyone’s invited to join the family in the newly renovated church basement. Food and coffee and tea. I claim the big round table near the exit stairs for the three of us. It’s then that she stands beside me, pulls out a chair and dumps her coat and small purse on it. She says she wants to sit with us because where we are is a calm place. Lots of people come ’round to her, paying their respects. In a few minutes there’s a line-up of and she is swept away by one of them to take care of things, talk with people.
She escapes a little while later and sits in the chair beside me: we’re alone. The other people at my table are getting food.
She talks, I listen. I say something of no consequence and as I do, a piece of hair that’s forever falling over my eyes falls yet again and as I am about to push it back she reaches out and tucks it behind my left ear with her fingertips. I blink, surprised. After all this time, she remembered. She smiles a bit and repeats it, her fingers touching my hair, lightly grazing just behind my ear lobe, just to make sure that crazy stray piece of hair that has never stayed put will stay put for a moment. She takes a deep breath. For the first time in a long time, her green eyes are clear. Her brown hair shines under the fluorescent lights. Her smile is as it was when we met a million years ago in our 20s. It isn’t about me, this moment. Or even the past that was us. Not at all.
The rest of the people at our table come back and soon they are talking and she leaves to make the rounds again.
We all hug her as we leave.
The next day the dogs are barking and as me and the dogs discuss whether they should stop barking, the doorbell rings. She’s standing away from the door, at the edge of the first step looking out on the street, her back to me.
“Come on in,” I say and she does.
She folds herself onto the couch and in an instant little Gia terrierish pet is in her lap and big poodle Parker is at her knee and she takes in a double dose of puppy love.
She’s here, she says, to say thank you. For all the support. But that’s not the entire reason. She’s here because now that it’s all done, she’s a bit lost. She’s here because she was close by and needed a touchpoint. Or to share silence with someone. Or to be heard. Because she doesn’t know what’s going to happen next and wants to know that it’ll be ok. Because some losses in life are stunning no matter how much you think you’re ready for them.
We talk a while. The dogs eventually settle down. When she leaves the only thing that’s different from when she came in is that she’s quieter and I have shared in another moment of life to treasure.
The email from Cinzia was brief. “I am sure you know or have read B’s obituary by now. She passed away. I thought I’d see you at the service, but you weren’t there and I had to leave immediately after to get home and couldn’t call you…”
Yes, I’d seen it. I’d been expecting it.
No, I did not attend.
We exchanged more emails. I learned more.
“Right up until the last two days, we thought she had at least another six months,” explained Cinzia.
That’s not how it works. And that meant no one was ready. I felt the chaos swirling in the emails I read. I wondered where my tears were.
I didn’t say that to Cinzia. I didn’t say it seemed to me that much was left undone. That it was tragic. That from the moment I learned of B’s dire diagnosis, recurrent metastasized, breast cancer, I’d been prepared. Steeled myself to sort through whatever might be conjured up when I got the news.
Some things will never make sense. Some things have no rhyme, no reason, no meaning when viewed through the lens of nature. It is what it is. We are here, now. Then with the passage of time, some a shorter passage than for others, we are not here at all. The unavoidable cost of living is dying.
Even knowing that, it is not possible to process in any coherent way how it is that someone with whom you shared a relationship, an apartment and all that stuff is now longer on this planet for no good reason. There is no sensemaking.
I didn’t say much to Cinzia about the things in my head. I didn’t say anything about who was on my worry list. We instead talked about silence, and anger and feeling the feelings and letting it be what it is because the infuriating and fabulous and insane thing is that no matter what, life goes on and we get through things: not over them, but through.
“When the moon comes through the trailing willow boughs, I see your face, I hear your voice and the bird singing as we pass the osier bed. What are you whispering? Sorrow, sorrow. Joy, joy. Woven together, like reeds in moonlight.”
Virginia Woolf, from “The String Quartet”
“In the changing colors
Of the ocean,
In the poetic chill that
Makes the autumn leaves fall,
In the brightness of
The silent moon,
And the mysterious awe
Of the milky way,
In the holy ritual of
In all the music that
Can not touch the soul any deeper,
In all the poems that
Make you smile with a nod or
Cry with an ache,
I miss you.”
― شعری از برادرزاده فرهاد
Not sad tears. Not happy tears. Just emotional tears. A woman in tears.