Monday, December 7, 2015

Flow My Tears

By Lisabet Sarai

I cry easily. In fact, it’s embarrassing how often I dissolve into teariness. Almost any strong emotion is enough to set me off.

Of course I cry from grief or sadness. The loss of a loved one or a petone of the all too frequent natural, or unnatural, disasters that wreaks havoc among the innocenteven a sad movie can make me cry. I remember being hit with fits of weeping for weeks after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami (which killed over 200,000 people). And I was holding back sobs at the end of The Wind Rises, Hayao Miyazaki’s exquisite animation about war, flight and love.

But anger also evokes my tears. I don’t yell or get violent when I’m really mad; I cry. An incident a few years ago comes to mind. There was a used bookstore I frequented, which would give you credit toward new purchases in exchange for books you’d read and returned to them. I had saved up about thirty bucks in credits and was gleefully looking forward to a buying spree. However, when I arrived at the shop, I discovered that the bookstore had been sold to new owners. The new management refused to honor my credit slips. I was furious. I argued with them for a while, to no avail. Finally I headed home, tears streaming down my cheeks as I walked along the sidewalk plotting how I’d trash them on social media. (I didn’t.) (However, I refuse to set foot in that bookstore ever again.)

Frustration is probably the most common reason I cry. When I can’t get some piece of software to work, or when my students continue to fail exams despite my devoting huge amounts of time to them, or when some recipe I spend hours preparing turns out to be inedible, I may well weep. In fact, I sometimes throw tantrums, much to my long-suffering husband’s distress. Stress from over-commitment and looming deadlines will also trigger a crying jag.

I really should act more mature. After all, I’m old enough to be a grandmother. On the other hand, I’d rather be the sort of person who expresses emotions freely than one who holds everything in. At least my crying fits these days, especially the less appropriate ones, tend to be short. For one thing, they really take it out of me physically. Ten minutes screaming, crying and railing against my fate will leave me exhausted and hoarse, with burning eyes and a runny nose.

As I sat down to write this post, I realized that unlike me, my characters rarely cry. That’s not for lack of tragedy or angst, either. Stella Xanathakeos in Exposure nearly dies in an arson attack that totally destroys the house she inherited from her father, her only asset. She responds not with tears but with emotional numbness that even love can’t dispel. Kyle McLaughlin in Necessary Madness is destitute, homeless and plagued with horrifying, prophetic visions of disasters. He tries to commit suicide, but he never sheds a tear. In Mastering Maya, the heroine is raped and betrayed by her master. To cope, she trains herself to be a Dominant, so detached and precise she earns the nickname “The Ice Queen”.

In fact, I can only think of one published scene in which a character succumbs to tears, in my erotic romance The Ingredients of Bliss. And Emily has a good excuse. Her lovers have been kidnapped by a brutal Hong Kong gang. The captors are threatening to kill the two men unless Emily can recover a load of narcotics stolen from the syndicate by another gangster—dope that has already been passed on to a buyer.

Emily’s not the sort of woman to sink into despair for very long, though.

It was barely two. Toni had promised to come fetch me at four-thirty. After the feverish activity of the last thirty-six hours, I wasnt sure what to do in the interim.

I glanced around. At this hour, I was the cafés sole customer. One waiter hung out behind the bar, peering at his mobile and ignoring me.

All at once, I felt utterly alone.

Roger had called the Tastes of France team back to the States. No one knew how long it would be before Etienne and Harry were freed, and meanwhile, we didnt want one of the crew to let the secret slip. If the police decided to take another look at the case, the Triad might respond by cutting their lossesand their prisonersthroats.

We broadcast the official story that Etienne was in isolation due to complications from influenza. Apparently, the studio had been deluged with get well cards and messages of sympathy.

Id stayed in Franceout of concern for my colleague, a tale that only confirmed the popular assumption that Etienne and I were a couple. Meanwhile, Harry was such a low key presenceat least outside the bedroomthat nobody even seemed to realize hed disappeared.

Nobody but me, that is. I hadnt had time think much about my Master since wed spoken two days ago. Now it hit me, like a speeding train with failed brakessharp fear and terrible need. My beloved, rumpled, horny, bossy Harry! There was some possibility Id never see him again. That he, or I, might not get out of this alive.

My stomach lurched and a sour taste filtered up into my throat. This wasnt a game of Go. One false step and his life could be forfeit. I liked to imagine I was clever, some sort of woman of international intrigue, bargaining with the Iron Hammer as if I had the upper hand. But what did I have, really? Nothing. No drugs. No weapons. Nothing to offer in trade for Harrys life. Nothing I could use to protect him.

Hysteria built in my chest. Tears blurred my vision. I had to get out of here. I tossed a twenty onto the table and ran for the elevator before the storm burst.

Back in my room, the floodgates opened. I sobbed and wailed, face down on the bed, until the pillow was soaked with tears. A fit of hiccups seized me. My moan became a silly yelp with each rhythmic clench of my diaphragm.

Get hold of yourself, girl. I could almost hear my grandmother, scolding me. Crying wont help.

Closing my swollen eyes, I breathed deeply, trying to will the spasms away, along with my despair. I needed a clear mind for what was to come. Fear would only muddle my thoughts and corrupt my judgment. Gradually my panic ebbed. I released it, grateful for my Dragon training.

That’s it. The whole crying scene lasts four short paragraphs. It’s a bit weird.

Maybe my characters are changing, though. The Ingredients of Bliss is a rather recent novel. In my current WIP, The Gazillionaire and the Virgin, both main characters succumb to tears, albeit briefly. In this case, the stimulus is lost or thwarted lovea standard in romance. They may well cry again before the book is finished.

Which reminds me—to meet the publication deadline, I have to finish the manuscript in the next two weeks. With at least 15K to go, that feels impossible. I’ve got to get to work on it, right now. But I hate working under stress.

I think I feel a tantrum coming on...


  1. Y'know, when a business buys another business, the buyer assumes the liabilities as well as the assets of the business purchased. Having said that, if the first place had gone out of business on its own, and the new store had brought in their own inventory to an empty store, that may not be the case. But in any case, the new store would have done better if they'd honored your chit. I'm sure you would have bought books there.

    Liked the excerpt. You always have such an overarching and interesting story line

    1. Yeah, my big takeaway from this post was the bookstore thing, too. I'm angry on your behalf, Lisabet.

      One thing I've learned since becoming a small business owner totally by accident is that you don't have to be good at business to own a business. You could be some lazy asshole like me. And that's no good for customers. heh

    2. Thanks for the compliment, Daddy.

      I know they weren't *required* to honor my credits, but what would it have cost them to do so? Normally used bookstores are dying to get rid of stock. This place had used paperbacks stacked to the ceiling. They could have gotten some good will, but instead they really alienated a customer.

      But that has nothing to do with crying, does it?

  2. Hi lisabet! You aways seem so sweet tempered it's hard to imagine you ever having a melt down. Sometimes we all just have to. Garce

    1. Me? Sweet tempered? ;^) You only know the online me!

      But I am much more likely to cry than to yell or get violent when I'm mad.

  3. I'm with you on getting mad leading to crying, although it hasn't happened often to me. I also think that a bout of crying triggered by one event can actually reflect one or several or even many triggers that didn't quite make you cry, but have been building pressure in your subconscious. (I'd better save my examples for my own post.)

  4. Yes, I definitely also cry from anger or frustration as well. Like others, the bookstore story stood out to me, too.

    It's not just that, though. I don't think crying itself shows childishness or a lack of maturity. It might be immature to react certain ways in conjunction with crying, but crying itself isn't entirely voluntary for me.


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