Crying in Public
by Madi Giovina
I cry in public parks a lot; we’re in the middle of a five-year drought, and I want to do my part. It helps, in small amounts, the equivalent of planting herbs in pots on the kitchen counter or making a vertical garden.
My tears are powerful, but I don’t have a full grasp on my powers yet. I can’t exactly choose what I grow or how much I cry. All I know is the most I could grow in one crying session was a willow tree, and that was a long cry. But I’m only human, and I can only cry so much. I limit myself to once a day: any more and I wouldn’t have a life; I’d fall into a deep, tessellating depression, which would probably generate more tears, but then I’d have most of my crying sessions in therapy instead of in public, and my therapist already has enough plants in her office.
In an average crying session, I grow a baby rosebush or a row of dandelions. Succulents are easy, too, because they require less water. And then I can get my friend Frida to propagate them, and our impact really multiplies.
Even though I’m not totally in control of my powers, I can feel my tears getting stronger every day. This time two years ago, I could barely grow purslane. But now, I’m a legend in my small town. That isn’t saying much, because the legend before me was a kid who was really good at untying knots.
The community farm asked me to work for them this summer. I said no at first. Even though I’m the best crier I know, I wasn’t sure I was good enough to do it full-time, and I wasn’t sure if crying in the workplace — even if said workplace is a farm — was appropriate. As I said, I cry in public parks a lot, but that’s around strangers.
I wasn’t sure how I felt about crying in front of my boss. I eventually said yes because I needed the money, and I liked that the farm gives away free produce to the community. The lead farmer, Jade, promised me that in exchange for my tears she would teach me about drought-tolerant plants and other farming methods that don’t require emotional labor.
My first week, I grew tomatoes, spinach, and basil. About enough for a small salad for a family of seven. Jade was impressed. She had been struggling to grow basil for a while; it was too hot and too dry for any of her plants to survive. “And you did it just like that! Huh! Maybe I should try crying more.”
By my third week on the farm, a strange thing happened: I ran out of things to make me sad enough to cry. Usually when I cried on my own, it came naturally, but now that I was trying to cry, I really had to try. It was like thinking too hard about breathing and then forgetting how to breathe. I had used up everything sad in the world, and there was nothing left for me to cry about.
Jade gave me a week off to rest my eyes. I didn’t cry at all on my break. My first day back, I grew a lemon tree, and everyone clapped. I collapsed from dehydration. Jade made sure to give me plenty of water after that. But a week later, fully hydrated, my tear ducts were blocked again. I tried to cry about not being able to cry, but that only got me one or two tears, enough for a sprig of lavender.
I took my lavender, quit my job, and headed straight to Frida’s house. I wanted her to comfort me, and remind me that I hadn’t even wanted to work there in the first place, but instead she laughed when she saw me. “I was wondering when you’d quit.” That’s all we said about the farm.
We lay in her bed and read Home & Garden magazines. I tore out all the plants I’d never grown. Looking at the pile of landscaping photos around me, I realized I wasn’t sad about being bad at my job, I was scared I was losing my gift. I dug my face into Frida’s pillow and screamed. I must have cried a little bit, too, because when I came up for air, there was a tiny tulip poking out of the pillow in place of a down feather.
Frida plucked it and made me sit on the floor. “I love flowers and all, but please don’t turn my bed into a garden.”
I laughed at Frida standing over me with the smallest tulip I had ever seen that she had just plucked out of her pillow.
“What? I don’t want bugs in my room!” she said in her own defense.
That made me laugh more, the idea of Frida’s room turning into something out of one of her garden magazines, bees and all. I was laughing so hard, I could feel tears dripping down my face. They cascaded, flowing softly like a lazy river. It felt natural, it felt right; my body was a spring again.
Soon, Frida’s floor was covered in a field of aster. The flowers were growing faster than Frida could pick them out of her carpet, so eventually she gave up and joined me in laughing on the floor. That’s when it hit me: I could have happy tears, too. I kissed Frida goodbye on the head and ran to the farm.
“I want my job back!” I yelled to no one and everyone.
Jade somehow heard me and came out from the shed to see me surrounded by a three-sisters garden, the result of the runoff of my laughing tears that hadn’t dried yet. The sight of me and my gift working again made Jade cry, and I thought I even saw an arugula leaf sprout at her foot.
Jade’s happiness made me cry more. Soon I had grown a blueberry bush and a row of willow trees. Within a few hours, my crying episode was gossip for the whole town, and I swear since then I’ve seen more people crying than I have in my whole life. Not everyone’s tears grow greenery, but it seems they still spring life.
Copyright © 2020 by Madi Giovina