A short story by Budgie Bigelow
“Never let a boy make you do something you don’t want to do. If he gets you alone, get away before he gets you involved in his crying.”
That was a lesson imparted to Jill by her mom on the first day of her senior year, but that was back in September. It was nearly May now, she had been dating Tyler for three months, and he hadn’t cornered her for a cry. He hadn’t even shed a single tear in front of her.
Guys at Sacred Hall High School had taken to crying with their girlfriends the year before, and it ended up all over the news, which is how Jill’s mom knew why to issue her sage-like advice. There were some guys who’d cry to girls they weren’t even dating, and that’s what scared Jill and the others at Sacred Hall the most: an unsolicited cry by a guy they weren’t even interested in romantically.
But that wasn’t Tyler. They had talked about crying together, sure, but he’d never put Jill in a position to comfort him when she wasn’t ready for it. He had feelings that made him want to cry like all high school boys, but he was respectful enough to wait until Jill was ready to listen to him sob and dry his tears. That’s what she believed, but his stoic demeanor when it came to emotion worried her. Sure, he smiled and laughed, but when was Jill going to see his other side, the side that let the weight of the world collapse his composure like it was made out of tin foil.
“No respectable man cries in front of his woman. Period.”
That was Jill’s father, though her mother said he did cry a few times when they were dating. Boys were different now. They cried openly and talked about how often they opened their tear ducts and had a good, healthy cry.
Jill’s bff Kim had been seeing Parker for two months, and the two engaged in crying often. Jill found this offputting, but that was mainly from being raised by a staunch anti-cryer father. Parker got Kim alone every chance he got, stared her in the face, said something like “Donald Trump is President,” and broke down and cried. They were having a cry twice a week, if Kim was telling the truth.
Prom was in three weeks, and everyone was talking about it. Jill’s group of friends were all claiming their dates had all cried in front of them, making Jill feel like an outcast for not having a boyfriend who had cried for her.
She knew it was coming. He was going to ask her to see him, somewhere they can be alone. Then, he’ll shed all traces of machismo, and Jill will finally feel the warm dampness of Tyler’s tears on her shoulder.
“Hi, Jill,” Tyler said, finding her after last period. “You wanna come by my dad’s place? He’s working in New York for the week, and nobody is at his house.”
“Sure,” Jill replied, hiding her excitement. She hadn’t gotten a prom proposal from Tyler, but it wasn’t like they’d go with other people. This had to be it. Tyler was finally ready to cry for her.
“OK,” Tyler said, offering a smile. He took her hand and led her to the parking lot, where his car was waiting. She had her reservations about Tyler and his tears. Her mother’s warning and father’s disdain were both in the forefront of her mind, but she was resolved to let him. There was no way she wanted to show her face at prom with a guy who had yet to cry for her.
“Once a boy opens up the waterworks, it’ll open a new era in the relationship, making it stronger, but this doesn’t mean you should enter into the realm of crying without pause.”
That was what Miss Marlon, the health class teacher, had said during their girls-only class where she discussed all female issues with all members of the class who identified as that particular gender. She had touched on sex too, briefly, but the focus was on the most pertinent issue: boys who cry.
Jill had sat at her desk during that class, staring downward, while her peers and classmates discussed their experiences with their crying boyfriends. Jill didn’t want to publicly air her worries about Tyler’s lack of tears; but they all knew, and she could hear the snickers as they whispered amongst themselves.
After this afternoon, though, she won’t have to stare at her desk during those conversations or stay silent while her friends talked about their crying boyfriends during lunch. She was finally going to be able to be part of the conversation.
“It’s nice in here,” Jill said, looking around Tyler’s dad’s house.
“Yeah,” Tyler agreed. He hung his coat on the hook by the door and walked to the couch. “Come here,” he said. “I want to talk.”
Jill sat next to him, hiding her excitement. Was he going to express his sadness, woes, insecurities, or some combination of the complex emotions boys feel? Kim had said that Parker cries about anything from not living up to his father’s potential, to Hilary not winning the presidency despite winning the popular vote, to thinking about the Nicolas Sparks movies. There was no telling what Tyler was going to pick for his first cry.
“I just wanted to say…” Tyler said. He couldn’t finish his first sentence. Jill was waiting for his face to contort and the sobs to pour out of him, but he stayed silent.
“You can tell me anything,” Jill said, putting her hand atop Tyler’s. It was something Kim claimed to say often to Parker during a sobbing fit. It helped bring out the right emotion. Tears were coming soon, she knew it.
“It’s just that I have these feelings,” Tyler said. “They’re inside me, and I feel…”
“Yes?” Jill asked.
Tyler looked into Jill’s face with those handsome eyes of his. He had the look of a quarterback, if the school hadn’t outlawed football as a barbaric blood sport. There wasn’t even the hint of an oncoming tear.
“I can’t do this,” Tyler said. “I don’t know how I let Parker talk me into this.”
“What?” Jill asked. “You can’t cry?”
“Over what?!” Tyler snapped, standing. “Nobody died or anything!”
“Why can’t you just cry for me?” Jill asked, standing to face her boyfriend, being the only one in the room close to tears.
“I just can’t,” Tyler said. “I don’t have it in me.”
“Just stay with me a while,” Jill pleaded. “We can tell everyone you cried. Nobody has to know you didn’t.”
“You can tell everyone whatever you want,” Tyler said, walking toward the door. “I don’t need to be part of this crying fad bullshit.”
“Don’t go,” Jill said. “This isn’t even my house.”
“I’m going,” Tyler said. “Maybe you’ll meet someone who can cry before prom.”
“Wait,” Jill said. “Can’t we just fuck?”
“How can I fuck if I can’t even cry?!” Tyler snapped, leaving his father’s house, slamming the door for good measure.
Jill collapsed on the couch, face in her hands, crying with no urge to stop the warm, wet sobs.
At least someone was able to cry.