Home > Critic-At-Large > Tears in Rain
Tears in Rain
By Chris Colcord
Fort Wayne Reader
I've spent a lot of hours this past week trying to solve the riddle of my own, peculiar personal behavior on Saturday, November 14th, the day after the attacks in Paris. This happens every once in a while to me, when I become aware that I've been acting in an erratic or eccentric manner, and I always try, afterward, to pin down exactly what's been going on in my subconscious. It's sort of like hiring yourself out as a private detective and trying to track down the forensic evidence in your psyche that could explain the reasoning behind your actions.
I looked back, then, at the entirety of what I accomplished on Saturday and tried to fashion it into some sort of narrative. Just the facts, as it were. I had woken up that morning early, 7:00am; I had a very busy day of work on tap and I needed to get a jump on the day. I made myself a pot of coffee, had a quick breakfast, checked some time-sensitive e-mails. Before leaving for work I spent some time with my two daughters and my wife, then I got in my car for the quick 5 minute drive to my job. I was the first one in so I unlocked the door, turned off the alarm, and began preparations for the day of work.
Co-workers showed up shortly thereafter, and after a brief strategy session about the specifics of the day — we had a number of large parties to accommodate and some special requests — I buckled down to the task of being dead-ready for the first customers to arrive. The rush started early that morning and never let up, a hectic, crazy day, but I was on top of it, all day long, never losing my cool, and things went well, exceedingly well. It became that enviable day where you find yourself being the calm inside the storm, when the execution of a myriad of tasks in rapid succession somehow becomes joyful, almost physically pleasurable.
After the last customers had left and the clean-up was finished, we counted the till and entered the numbers into the daily take. I did a quick mental prep about the next day of work and then said goodbye to my co-workers. After locking up I stopped by the local pub and had a quick pint and watched a bit of I.U's infuriating and inevitable loss to Michigan. Then back in my car and back home, joining my family for dinner.
The rest of the night was about the kids, refereeing fights, getting them clean and into pajamas, reading books. We took a quick trip to a discount store before bedtime, picking up some absurdly early Christmas presents and giving the girls a chance to run wild for a few minutes. Then back home for bedtime and the usual pitched battle between parents trying to get children to sleep and children determined to exhaust every possible avenue for staying up as late as possible.
After that, a few hours comparing notes with my wife about our respective days, then some half-hearted television viewing. I picked up the recent bestseller I got from the library, a thriller written by a writer trying to take over a popular series, but the book wouldn't catch fire for me, so I closed it and made myself a drink. I spent a half hour editing some pages of a manuscript I had been working on, then called it a day. I was asleep by ten-thirty.
And that, my friends, was my peculiar and unfathomably strange Saturday.
On Friday I watched the events unfold in Paris and I felt horror, and at some point I got up from the couch and the TV and went into the bathroom, locked the door, and sobbed and sobbed. There have been 3 times in the last two decades when I've cried for things that had nothing to do with my own personal heartache or grief — September 11, Sandy Hook, and now Paris. I cried and cried, for the loss and the horror, for the pain and the crushing sorrow. I cried and I cried, and then on Saturday, I went back to the business of my life and acted as if nothing had happened at all.
Late Sunday evening or so, something in my subconscious snapped to attention and that's when I started the painful process of examining my Saturday behavior. I wondered how it was possible for me to be so devastated on one day and so. . . oblivious the next? Had I become so hardened in my old age that this sort of thing can now just roll off my back?
And I know, I know, survival instinct, you simply can't take the pain of the world on as your personal battle, you'd go insane, absolutely insane, trying to imagine the horror and sorrow of all those strangers. Life's hard enough, with its attendant sadness and strife, that you simply have to save yourself for the private battles and losses that you will inevitably face. There's no point in asking for more than your fair share.
But sometimes you can't help it; sometimes you feel like . . . oh, the whole human race, as the David Bowie song goes. (And thank God for music, for song, for its incredible capacity to express the inarticulate language of the heart. And to hell with those bastards who won't allow it.) Sometimes you have to feel something, you have to express something, you have to make a point of witnessing, even if it's only in unleashing pointless and solitary tears by yourself in a locked bathroom. Your lonely tears mean nothing in the grand scheme of things, they're like tears in rain: forgotten, washed away. They add nothing of value to the world, they won't change or affect any policy. . . and yet I'm convinced that the fact that you shed them means everything. Everything in the world.
There are a lot of politicians, like our governor, who probably think it's naive for so many Americans to want to help the Syrian refugees in the current climate; there are security concerns, massive security concerns, and that seems to trump any humanitarian impulse. But I understand the naivete completely: we have no outlet for our compassion. We've cried our tears, changed our Facebook profile pictures, but the refugees represent something far more tangible: the chance to alleviate someone else's sorrow. To offer comfort, which we couldn't do in Paris. It probably is naive. But perhaps a bit more meaningful than just going through the business of our days.