Collecting Tears: Chapter 1
This is a short story titled Collecting Tears that I started about 3 years ago. There are several chapters in this work so I will post the first chapter today…
Chapter 1: Near the End
It had taken a life time but it was finally full. Trembling hands clutched a delicate crystal vial that rested against a bosom that rose and fell in shallow gasps. The final tear had come from Nelly, her long time nurse. It was a task that had nearly cost her the energy to continue breathing but one that had to be done never the less.
Why had the poor lass been so obstinate about holding her feelings in? An hour of story telling had finally broken Nelly’s resolve and she had let ocean waters streak down her face. A practiced brush of the child’s cheek had captured the precious liquid on a flattened nail where she could hide it until she sent the nurse away. Once she was alone, she had painstakingly collected that final material.
Now resting quietly, she had time to look back across the pages of time.
Her mother had christened the vial on her birthday some 87 years ago. Her first tear had rolled down her infant cheek and into the glass capsule coming to rest lonely on the bottom. Somehow that had saved the power of the moment and she was able to recall in vivid detail the moments before and after the capture of that single tear. Just by concentrating on the vial, she could draw on the pain and confusion that defined the passage of her life from the womb to the world. She could relive the searing despair of being removed from the umbilical and the lush caresses of her mother’s first kisses.
She always felt silly for wasting time on that first tear but she missed her mother more now at the end of her life than when she had lost her so many years ago. There was a tear in the vial for that day as well, but she wouldn’t let herself be drawn into that memory – no, they were more than memories. Each sweet dew drop represented life. Nothing less. To take a hold of the power they held was to be in their moment of life again.
She knew each tear and from whom they had come from. They were friends of delight and pain that she had visited with more times than she cared to remember.
The gray shadow of death was climbing closer about her but she held no fear. She was prepared for that final moment now that her collection was complete. With her last gasp she would swallow the contents of the crystal container and dance forever among their moments – each one so carefully harvested and saved for this day.
Until death got on with his business, she would enjoy calling on the power of a few more of her favorite collections.
There was one tear that was more powerful than all the others. It called to her when she slept – none of the others had ever done that. Just the one. She was careful to visit it on occasions when she was alone because it affected her so deeply to return to that moment.
She was seven years old. It was summer time outside the house, but winter seemed to hold sway inside on this day. She had woke up cold inside her bones even though it was quite warm. The only true break from the summer heat for the plantation house in 1927 were the large oaks that lent their shade to the gentle breezes that passed through screen covered windows.
Summer heat or no, she was shivering. She was sick.
Many of her neighbors had been sick as well. And many of them were now on to their eternal rewards – words her mother used to describe when someone had died.She wasn’t sure what eternal rewards were, but she knew she wasn’t in a hurry to be getting any. She climbed out of bed and stumbled to the bed pan that had been placed in her room since she hadn’t been feeling well. The cold porcelain made her shiver more harshly causing some spray to hit her calf. Mom wouldn’t be happy, but she used the hem of her night shirt to wipe her leg dry. The mere fact that she was thinking along those lines made her feel a little better. Maybe she wouldn’t be getting any eternal rewards anytime soon after all.
Her little brother slept in the room across the hall and she hurried to cross over to check on him. If she was feeling better, maybe he was feeling better too. Before she made it through his doorway, she could see her father sitting in the chair next to Bubby’s bed. She could only see his back but she could tell that he was sitting with his face in his hands. Every morning it was the same. Sometimes she felt jealous because he always spent time next to Bubby’s bed and so little besides hers. She had mentioned it to mother one night as she was being tucked in and had been told that her brother wasn’t as strong as she was and that her father was afraid for Bubby. That had shocked her because she had never seen her father be afraid of anything.
She stepped fully into the room and her father looked over his shoulder. She saw something this morning that she had never seen before either. Her father was crying.
She had collected her first tear while he had squeezed her in a tight hug. Her mother had turned the vial over to her just the previous week. Maybe its power came from that fact – that it had been her first. No, she knew the real reason. This was the only time her father had ever cried. The hug had hurt but somehow she had known that he needed to squeeze her hard because he couldn’t do so with her brother. Sometime that morning her Bubby had collected his eternal rewards whether he had wanted to or not.
80 years later she felt his warm tears splashing on her shoulder. She could feel the scratchy stubble that was rubbing her cheek raw and smell the cologne that he had put on the previous morning. His body had shook more than hers had when she was shivering from the sickness. More than anything though, she could feel the pain that tore her father’s heart apart.
Uncollected tears spilled fresh across time weathered cheeks lost in the power of this one greater tear.