BOYS DON'T CRY

“Bitch,” I whispered.

“What?” She was getting angry. You can tell when she is mad. She starts pushing her hair back from her forehead. Maybe it heats up when she gets angry, and she has to move the hair so it doesn’t burn to a crisp.

“What did you say? ‘Bitch?’ That’s cool; that’s real cool. Can’t we ever have a disagreement without you getting hostile and turning into some Neanderthal asshole?”

“Look, I didn’t mean it that way,” I said. “I meant it, well, you know, I’m just mad.”

“Oh right. I’m sorry. When you say ‘bitch,’ you mean it as a compliment. You bastard!”

“What the hell is this? I thought we were having a great time? Was I the only one enjoying this trip?” I wasn’t really angry. I was just playing the role of a man with an injured ego.

“As a matter of fact, yes. You are the only one. You and all the other couples.” If she hoped to anger me with sarcasm, she was wasting her breath.

“What the hell?” I gave her my puzzled look, the one that says, “What honey? I don’t understand. What’s wrong?” She never could have a rational discussion. She would always go off on some emotional tangent, dragging in some baggage that had nothing to do with me.

“How come you never say ‘I love you?’” she asked, starting to cry.

“I told you before, I’ll say it when I’m ready to get married." I too was starting to get angry. My voice always gets very calm and cold when I am pissed off.

“I don’t understand why you won’t call this a relationship! What do I have to do to get you to make a commitment? We do everything a couple does, but I don’t feel like a couple. I want to be part of something. Something with you. What’s so bad about a commitment?”

That was it. She said the c-word. ‘Commitment.’ I was out of there. “You are part of something. You’re a part of... Look, it’s just that I don’t want to... I mean... ahhhh... never mind.”

“What? You don’t want to what? Why do you always do this? You were about to say something real for once! Every time you almost share something with me, you stop. Just be honest! What?!” She choked off a sob.

“You are too emotional right now. I can’t discuss this.” I began walking away.

“Oh right. I forgot. Emotions aren’t part of your life. You don’t get mad! You don’t get upset! You never cry about anything! Come back here! Act like a man!”

I kept on walking, right out of the hotel, “Out of your life!” I said to myself.

“You’re just a little boy! A selfish, immature little boy!” She cried into the stillness. I kept walking.

They say that it never gets pitch black outside, that there is always some light That night it came pretty damn close to pitch black. I was swimming in ink.

I had been walking forever, down the beach, when I looked up and realized the time. We had fought right after lunch. Now it was dusk, when the seagulls disappear, the sun dips into the ocean and sinks out of sight without a hiss, clouds scud across the horizon in front of an unseen storm of night, and the only sound is the ocean whispering incomprehensible secrets. The clouds blotted out the stars. There was no moon that night.

Lots of people say “Oh, I walked for hours,” or “It seemed like days.” I walked for days; it seemed like weeks. Night fell, hit rock bottom, and bounced twice. As the stillness of midnight slammed hard into me, even the watchlights of ships far out on the ocean winked as if to say, “Better you than us! Good night!!” They faded out with colorful twinklings. I was in limbo. I had found the edge of life. The night wrapped itself around me like tar, thick and sticky, oozing between my toes and clogging my throat.

I had a lump of coal in my throat, put there by the girl I had fought with and left. As the pressure in my lungs increased, the sadness squeezed the lump of coal, and a diamond’s glittery smooth edges cut deep into me, releasing rivulets of suppressed sobs. But I could not cry.

I saw a faint glistening ahead, a point of light, moving slowly, side to side. I approached it, not knowing how far or near it was, when I suddenly stumbled and fell on something soft and soggy. I thought the light was a ship or faraway plane, maybe a buoy, but when I looked up, it was gone.

I put out my hands, to find what I had disturbed there. As I slid my hands along its rumpled and twisted clamminess, I knew it was a dead and drowned body. A whispering wave moved the body ever so slightly, flipped open it’s eyes, and I saw the light again. The pinprick of a single star, hazily reflected in the lifeless eye.
Even as my body chilled, I had to know, was it a man in front of me, a woman, did it have a beard, or breasts? Was it young when it died, or was it wrinkled like a prune. Without seeing I learned the secrets the body could tell me. He was a boy, a young man, my hands told me. He was muscular, and clean-shaven. He was wearing jeans, tennis shoes on, a class ring, a pullover sweatshirt. He had a crewcut. His jaw seemed square, his body straight. His cheeks smelled of cologne and salt. He was very dead.

I took his hand. “Listen to me,” I said. “I want to tell you some things.”

I told that guy everything that had happened that night. How I was afraid of the relationships that girls wanted, how a commitment was wrong, and how long I had been this way. I told him about my childhood, why I am the way I am. I told him the secrets I never told anyone.

“Did you always know when you had hurt someone else’s feelings? Did you ever do it on accident? I wish it were always an accident, but I know that for me it is usually not. Sometimes I feel ridiculous condemning other people for hurting me when I can’t even live up to my own ideals. Does everybody feel this way, or is just me. What do you think?” I asked him these things, but only the sea answered me, and I couldn’t understand what it was saying.

I wondered who he was and whether I should mourn him instead of burdening his body with my troublesome thoughts. “Suppose you are one of those drug dealers,” I began saying, “one of those guys nobody suspects. Those clean cut guys who get good grades and deal on the playground of the elementary school. Suppose your supplier killed you, stabbed you once, and threw you overboard. Should I still mourn you? Suppose you are the jock of the year. Suppose you are rich, and you were having a party on your family’s yacht while your parents were gone, and you tried to rape some girl while you were drunk, and she pushed you and you fell, and now here you are, drunk and dead. Should I mourn you? What if you were just minding your own business, and some thief stabbed you, stole your wallet and pushed you off of a pier. Should I avenge you?”

I asked him why boys don’t cry. “Why I am so unfeeling and cold? Why is this my image of manliness?” The boy had no answers.

I became quiet, sitting still, looking up into nothing. I let go of the boy, and the sea began to slip away with him, leaving me to dry out. A hint of pink licked up the side of the night. Within minutes, a golden sun bobbed up out of the sea, flooding the sand around me with warm honey. Still I looked up, and not down at the body drifting away from me. I had told the truth, I had held nothing back, and had asked nothing in return. I could give. I cried as I never knew I could.