Borrowing Tears

Art by Annie Gibson
Art by Annie Gibson

In 1872, Darwin could explain that peacocks have colorful feathers to attract a peahen, but he struggled to explain why humans cry.

We must look at weeping as an incidental result, as purposeless as the secretion of tears from a blow outside the eye.

During the past several decades, theories of why humans cry include the aquatic ape theory (teary eyes are a signal to aggressors that the crier is incapable of harm), straightforward biological theories that tears are a bacterial cleansing agent, or the most popular at the moment–tears are a form of social signalling evolved from mammalian distress calls. In other words, tears are a clear sign that someone is in pain or in danger.

Still, psychologists differ in their believes about crying. The Dutch Ad Vingerhoets believes tears are highly symbolic and signal helplessness, especially in children; whereas, John Bowlby points out that crying bonds a mother and child. But more recently the British neurologist Michael Trimble linked crying to a human’s capacity for empathy. Maybe that’s why some music triggers our tears.

In Daystealer Trinidad has entered a world where she not only steals human’s Days, but also instinctively takes a human’s tears.

Her eyes fluttered, moistening with tears—tears I had to steal. I slipped them into my eyes, for somehow I knew I needed them. 

At first, Trinidad doesn’t understand her actions, especially when Rick confronts her.

“Look!” Rick jerked my chin to him. I almost spit in his face before his touch turned tender. “Look, why were you alone on the beach? Why aren’t you with your people?” One of my tears spilled unintentionally, for I wouldn’t have released it on purpose. “What’s this? Nadirians don’t cry.” Rick frowned as his left thumb, ringed with a white vine tattoo, swiped the tear from my cheek and his eyes searched my lips for a reply. Don’t trust any human.

But my brother said to trust him.

And when Saba sees Trinidad crying, he’s shocked. Later, in a quiet moment, he asks her about the tears.

Saba lay on his back, stretching his full length, smoking in silence. After a long while, he said, “You took tears from the mother. Why?”

I guessed. “They help me feel what humans feel. Loneliness, sadness, grief―”

Saba barked a laugh. “Why do that?” His words mocked but tone, melancholy.

I felt his heavy gaze but avoided those haunting eyes. “I’m not sure.” I seized his cigarette, took a drag, and coughed.

“Maybe you want to punish yourself.” He retrieved his cigarette and captured my gaze, his cool expression shifting—only a slight shift, but I saw regret—though I had no idea what it meant. He gestured to my face. “Your eyes have changed since this morning.”

“My tears are gone.” I studied Rick’s bag. A palpable silence stretched between us until I said, “I don’t think I’ll collect any more. Tears are too painful.”

In Trinidad’s effort to recover her lost identity, she waivers in her sympathy for humans. Ultimately she discovers she wants to be more like them–at least some of them.

What’s your theory about crying? Do you believe animals are capable of empathy? Do they cry?

Here Come the Tears
Here Come the Tears (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

5 thoughts on “Borrowing Tears”

  1. .Her eyes fluttered, moistening
    with tears—tears I had to steal. I
    slipped them into my eyes, for
    somehow I knew I needed them. Amazing read..

  2. I think animals cry. They don’t shed tears as humans do, but canines howl when in distress, felines yowl or mewl when in pain, elephants grieve when they lose a family member. Loss or pain or empathy can be expressed in body language – the folding of the body into a fetal position, slumping of the shoulders ,drooping of the head. But tears, that’s totally human.

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