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November 29, 2022 4:25 am  #1

Worked to Tears

By some miracle, Lily manages to make it into the office bathroom before she bursts into tears.

Even luckier, there’s no one in the bathroom at the time, so the first three tears that spill from her flooded eyes are observed by no one but her own flushed reflection in the mirror and the off-white tiles they splash onto.

The next half-dozen tears fall onto her hand, as Lily covers her mouth to muffle a sob and hurries into the large stall at the end of the row. She feels a brief pang of guilt at taking up the accessible stall, but hopefully she’ll stop crying before she gets in anyone’s way.

Even as the thought crosses her mind, Lily knows it’s a long shot. She’s been fighting tears all morning, ever since she came in (early, still groggy and under-caffeinated) to find her desk piled with papers and her email inbox, so blissfully empty on Friday evening, in the double digits. That had been bad enough to nearly bring her to tears right there at her desk (“Allergies,” she’d explained to the coworkers glancing her way, the third time she’d blown her nose in as many minutes) and then the mid-morning meeting, her boss’s heavy-handed comments in her direction about productivity and attention to detail.

By the time the meeting was over and Lily had picked her way through a few emails and a dozen papers, the tears had started to well up, no matter how hard she tried to hold them back.

She probably should have grabbed her lunch, just to have some explanation for where she was, in the very likely event that she can’t calm down in a reasonable length of time, but it was all she could do to walk through the office to the bathrooms without her eyes spilling over.

Finally in the semi-privacy of the women’s room, Lily leans her back against the wall and lets go. Tears stream down her cheeks, a few dripping onto her blouse, before she tilts her head forward so they’ll fall to the ground instead, splashing onto the tile. She keeps her lips pressed together, keeping the sobs that wrack her body silent, or at least quiet.

She’s been crying a lot lately. Almost every day since her promotion, sometimes more. A few weeks ago, she spent the whole weekend crying, and still  cried through her shower on Monday morning. Her pillowcase probably spends more time damp than dry, these days.

Usually, she can manage to save it until she isn’t at work, but that’s getting harder and harder lately. She loves her job, but the stress is starting to weigh more heavily than the benefits.

Hiccuping softly, Lily digs through her purse for a handkerchief — one advantage to crying so much, she always comes prepared in case she does — and presses it against her eyes. She hates wiping her eyes with toilet paper. It always soaks through and rips and makes more of a mess than she started with.

The handkerchief will still get soaked, but at least it’ll last longer, and not fall apart in her hands.

Bracing her back against the wall, Lily slides down slightly, not quite sitting, just leaning. The tension in her abdominal muscles from the effort it takes to hold herself up makes her upper body spasm with each sob. She can’t quite stifle them completely, settling for muffling the noise against her handkerchief and the heels of her hands.

Calm down, she tells herself firmly. You don’t have time to cry like this. You have work to do. If you don’t do it, someone else has to, and they’ll know you can’t handle the promotion, and then you’ll really have something to cry about.

The warning doesn’t do much good. If anything, it makes her cry harder.

After a few minutes, the sobbing quiets slightly, enough for her to pull the handkerchief away from her face, wiping at the tears that have gathered on her jaw and escaped down her neck, letting the tears flow unchecked down her cheeks.

It only takes a moment before the tears are raining from her lashes and dripping from her cheeks and chin, splashing onto the tiled floor and falling onto her skirt.

She’s always been a tearful crier, a messy combination with how long her crying jags go on for. It’s not unexpected anymore, how quickly her handkerchief gets soaked, but seeing the way the tears fall when they aren’t stoppered by the fabric never fails to surprise her a little. Her ex once told her she cried like a faucet, and Lily can’t disagree. Her tears don’t fall, they pour.

Pressing her lips together against a sob, she holds the handkerchief under her chin, catching the tears streaming steadily down her cheeks. Her skirt is black, it’ll hide the dampness of the tears falling onto it, but her white blouse won’t be so lucky.

The bathroom door opens.

Lily freezes, utterly still except for the tears, falling like rain. Silent except for her sobbing breaths.


It’s Becca. Of everyone that could walk in on her crying, Lily’s grateful that it’s her. They have lunch together a few times a week, and they’ve been for coffee on a couple Saturdays, before the promotion, before Lily started spending her Saturdays crying into the couch cushions. They still text, almost every day. She’s seen Becca cry, just a few tears one lunch break, dripping down her cheeks before she composed herself again.

“I saw you walking in here,” Becca goes on. “You seemed sort of upset, I didn’t want to bother you, but it’s been a little bit, are you okay?”

“Last stall on the right,” Lily calls, before she can think better of it. Her voice comes out weepy and hesitant, choked with tears.

The click of Becca’s heels approach the door. Lily pushes off the wall to unlock it, hurriedly trying to wipe the tears from her cheeks. It doesn’t accomplish much — the tears fall so thick and so fast that there are tears dripping from her chin again by the time the door is open.

Becca’s face falls when she sees her. “Oh, honey,” she murmurs, stepping into the stall and closing the door behind her.

Lily’s face crumples. She hurriedly covers her mouth with the handkerchief, muffling the sob she can’t swallow in time, and then the half-dozen sobs that immediately follow it, choking out of her on every breath.

“Lily, honey,” Becca repeats, her voice soft and soothing. She takes Lily by the elbows and lowers them to the ground, kneeling with her on the tile as Lily sobs.

After a few minutes of Becca’s thumbs moving in soothing circles against Lily’s upper arms, she manages to stop sobbing long enough to speak. “Sorry,” she chokes out, trying to wipe her face again.

Becca takes the sodden handkerchief from her hand. She folds it, looking for a dry spot. Finding none, she tucks it into the pocket of her cardigan and brings her sleeve to Lily’s cheek instead, wiping the tears away. “Don’t be sorry,” she says, smiling sadly. “I couldn’t tell you the amount of times I’ve been right where you are.”

Lily sobs a laugh, leaning into Becca’s hand. She’s thorough about wiping the tears away, even though the crying hasn’t slowed. “I’m trying not to make a habit of it. I should just cry at home.”

“You cry as much as you need to on company time,” Becca says, pulling her sleeve down and cupping Lily’s face in her hands, thumbs settled beneath the outer corners of her eyes, wiping away tears as they fall. “They’re the ones working you half to death.”

It’s not them, Lily wants to say. It’s me, I’m the one who can’t take it. But if she opens her mouth she’ll start sobbing again, so she just nods.

Becca tilts Lily’s chin up. “You’re so strong, Lily. Even if you have to cry to get through it. Especially then.”

Lily nods again, believing her a little more this time, hiccuping softly. Becca keeps wiping her tears away, focusing her attention on the streams running from the outer corners of Lily’s eyes, letting the rest of the tears — the tracks down the middle of her cheeks, thick and constantly flowing, falling from her face onto her lap, the tears dripping at random from her eyelashes, raining down on Becca’s forearms, and even the heavy streams from the inner corners of Lily’s eyes, one skirting around the edge of her mouth and adding to the downpour, the other running straight into her mouth — fall as they may.

“You’ll get through this,” Becca promises, and Lily’s face crumples again.

“Promise?” she asks.

Becca smiles. “Promise.”

Lily sobs, voiceless but with her whole body. She leans toward Becca, then straightens up again, not wanting to cry on her.

“It’s okay,” Becca says. “It’s too warm for this sweater anyway, cry on it all you want.”

Lily lets herself fall forward, resting her forehead on Becca’s shoulder. She closes her eyes, pressing her face into the soft weave of her sweater, just long enough to wipe her face dry, then eases back again, feeling the tears carve new tracks down her soaked face.

The first few just fall from her lashes, then a thick drop runs down the middle of her cheek on the left side, and two tears spill over on the right, one from each corner. They drip from her cheeks and chin in steady streams. New tracks keep forming as Lily keeps crying harder, five on the left and four on the right, some constantly overflowing, others occasionally refreshed by a stray tear.

Becca rubs Lily’s back, giving no complaint about the floods of tears soaking into her sweater. “You’re okay,” she repeats, gentle but firm. “You’re okay, honey. You’ll be okay.”

Eventually, with tears still pouring down her face, Lily starts to believe her.


November 29, 2022 10:16 pm  #2

Re: Worked to Tears

That was beautiful. Heart wrenching but beautiful. I could picture every detail like I was there. Feel every emotion like it was my own.


November 30, 2022 2:19 pm  #3

Re: Worked to Tears

Beautiful, girl, you are a master describing crying, keep it up. I loved this one.


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