I was 19 when my first love looked at the space just to the left of my face and informed me it was over. He was sitting on his bed, vulnerably outfitted in pajamas, and I was standing in the middle of his room, watching my heart beat through my eyes. I distinctly remember that I began to pace. It was a panicky pace that befitted my approaching hyperventilation and it soon gave way to a sprint out of his house.
If before I harbored any ill will towards ugly-crying in public, it disintegrated upon contact with heartbreak. For the next two weeks I was a walking, real-time sob montage. I cried on the sidewalk right outside his house. I cried in my boss’s office. I cried in a Staples while purchasing a new SIM card for my digital camera (lol). I cried over produce at the grocery store. I cried quietly during class which felt a little poetic. I cried freely between classes which felt pretty pathetic.
During a particularly wistful mid-afternoon break, I was sitting on some steps outside my lecture hall considering whether anyone would ever love me again when I caught the attention of a tenured, respected professor. I’d only spoken to him a couple times but he looked at me like a loving grandfather in a way that felt neither creepy nor patronizing.
“What’s the matter?”
“My boyfriend and I broke up.”
“Did you love him?”
He paused for a moment. “Well, then what kind of person would you be if you weren’t sad?”
I didn’t attempt a response nor did he wait around for one, but our brief encounter stuck with me. He reminded me that my feelings weren’t tragic or stupid but justified. Normal. Good, even. It’s a sweet little memory I get to carry in my pocket because I was enough of a mess to cry all over the great outdoors.
Crying in public is not just for kids. In fact, bearing your soul in front of strangers can almost feel like a rite of passage into the gritty mess of adulthood. I’ve already had two good sidewalk cries since moving to New York! I’m feeling so grown up.
Have you cried in public? Does the memory make you cringe, smile, feel sheepish? Tell me everything.