People cope with stresses in different ways.
Some people get really angry. Some eat, smoke, or drink too much. My sister throws up.
Sometimes I cry so much, it eats away at the skin on my lids, leaving weird little scaly scabs. Blood vessels pop, leaving tiny bright red dots around my puffy eyes. I find salty streaks on my chin and down my neck.
It stands to reason that sometimes, this crying might happen in public.
As a female executive, I've tried not to cry at work, but I let go a few times when I was being sexually harassed, and I totally lost it when I got laid off from the job that moved me to LA. That day, I cried so much – mostly in the parking lot of the Whole Foods in Venice – that I short-circuited the cell phone I'd been holding up to my ear. When the T-Mobile store clerk diagnosed water damage, all I could do was declare, "FROM MY TEARS!"
And, of course, cry some more.
I spent many nights crying in public in New York City, those late nights on the Lower East Side after too much to drink, not being able to afford a cab home so waiting for the bus, or not being able to hail a cab home in an overnight snowstorm. Maybe it was because some guy rejected me, or because somebody stole my wallet, but mostly, it was just because I was lonely.
And when you cry in New York, people don't leave you alone. Whether you're sitting on some park stairs or a stoop or a subway train or at the bar, if there are tears streaming down, somebody's going to ask you if you're OK. Somebody's going to try to get you home OK. Somebody's going to buy you a drink, or ask you on a date.
I mean, New Yorkers are pretty miserable. They've probably all been there, at one time or another.
Fortunately, since moving to LA, I haven't had those same lonely nights out on the street. I drink a lot less now. And, since I now drive my own car, I almost always have a ride home. I almost always have a place to go cry.
It's not exactly private, but it's not really public either. Nobody's going to pull up alongside you at a red light and bother you for crying. A cop is probably not going to pull you over for crying.
Boy, have I sobbed my guts out from behind that wheel. It hasn't been easy since I moved to LA. And boy, has it been lonely.
The first time I really remember crying in LA outside of my car, right out there in public for the whole world to see, was after my car accident in April. I started crying immediately after impact, resting my head on the steering wheel, panicking about money and lack of health insurance and the like. Eventually, I had to move my car over to the side, get out of the car, and talk to the other two drivers (the guy who hit me, and the guy I hit). I tried to conduct the business of exchanging insurance information while absolutely bawling my eyes out. When the cops came, they assumed I needed an ambulance because of how hysterical I was. I tried calling friends to tell them what happened, but I was unintelligible. I was just wailing, an absolute crazy lady standing on the side of the road.
No one comforted me. No one came to the scene of the accident. The guy who hit me was driving his girlfriend's car, and when she arrived, she had no patience for my hysteria. Her rudeness snapped me out of the daze I'd fallen into, and just made me cry harder.
I couldn't understand how people could be so apathetic. Aren't New Yorkers supposed to be the rude ones?
Maybe I could dismiss the car accident as a one-time occurrence, a stressful situation for all those involved, not emblematic of the way Angelenos lack compassion for someone clearly in distress. But then, Saturday night happened.
I'd taken the free West Hollywood shuttle and walked the rest of the way to my favorite place, sat at the bar by myself, and had a grand old time eating dinner and having drinks. I hung out with the bartenders. I recognized a couple of other regulars. And then I got asked the question I'd been dreading for weeks: how was the guy I was dating? And where was he?
The truth is, I don't really know. He's back from his trip, but he's gone. At least for now. My worst fears came true. I don't know why. He never said. I just know we're not together. I'm no longer his. I don't think he was ever mine.
So, as I attempted to answer the inquiry, I felt the heartbreak of a thousand souls welling up inside of me. I quickly settled my tab, waved my goodbyes, and got the hell out of there. With no car to drive home in (and too drunk to drive anyway), I sat on a bus bench, ordered an Uber car service, and began to cry.
I don't really remember what happened when my driver arrived, except that I was still crying when I got into the backseat, and he took one look at me and said, "Get out of my car." I questioned it, but he was so insistent and seemed so angry, I obeyed and started to get out of the car. I was so bewildered, I actually stopped crying for a minute, until he sped away with the door still open, my left foot still in the car. I stumbled enough to fall out of my strappy shoe (and destroy its heel), walked barefoot back to the bus bench, and tried ordering another Uber. The hours grew long, the shards of my broken heart slicing into me, and the wait became unbearable, so I took the Metro bus that pulled up, the bus I knew would drop me off a block away from my apartment.
And sitting there, with the driver in the front, and the passengers to my right and behind me, I was amazed at how hard I could cry, and no one offered to help. No one asked me if I was OK. Everyone looked straight ahead as though I were the crazy person on the bus. After all, there's always one.
As an experiment, I didn't hold back. I cried just as hard as I would have in my own car, or home in my apartment. I let it all out.
And still, nothing.
In truth, I didn't really need help on Saturday night, though I could've used some comforting.Thank God I didn't need help. I hate to think of what will happen one day when I do need help in LA.
In the meantime, somebody should take that Uber driver off the streets.
A Tear's Worth
My Inner New Yorker