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June 2, 2023 1:09 am  #1

as seen on a train

There's a stranger sitting across from me on the train. She's young, pretty. Facing me, across the table between the seats, but looking out the window. She doesn't acknowledge me at all — fine by me, I'm painfully shy around strangers.

She looks like she's going to cry.

It's hard to describe what it is about her expression that has me sure she's going to cry, and not just one of those people who look sad when they're not, or someone with really bright eyes. She doesn't really look upset, just sad and tired and worn-down, like she's been working too hard. Her mouth is pulled into a tense little line, less like a frown and more like she's trying to keep her lips from trembling.

She's definitely tearing up now. Her eyes look so full that I keep expecting the tears to fall, but they haven't yet. Her eyes just keep welling up with tears, beading on her lashes. I've never understood the turn of phrase eyes swimming with tears before, but hers really are, completely glossed over and shiny, visible pools of tears in both eyes, barely managing to not spill over.

The first tear overflows down her right cheek, right from the middle of her eye, trailing right down to her chin and dripping off. It lands on the sweater she's wearing, leaving an obvious damp spot. Another tear follows the same path, and drips another spot onto her sweater.

Then she blinks, and the tears seem to fall all at once. Most of the tears on the right side flow down the same path, pouring in a steady stream from the middle of her eye to her chin and dripping steadily onto her sweater. But a few tears don't follow the path, overflowing from each corner of her eye, trailing down her face.

On the left side, there's no established track for the tears to follow. They spill over in a deluge, uncountable, some rolling down her cheek and some falling straight down, landing on her sweater and her lap.

Her eyes are already filled with tears again, falling quicker now that the dam's been broken. I can't see individual damp spots on her sweater anymore, just a growing soaked patch as tears pour straight down her right cheek. The other two tracks reach her chin and drip too. Her left cheek is entirely wet with tears, every blink sending a new cascade in at least four separate paths.

I've never seen eyes so full of tears. No matter the tears that stream down her face, soaking into her clothes, her eyes well with tears faster than she can cry.

After a few minutes of crying, the tears from her left eye resolve into three steady streams and two more that drip unevenly. Her lashes are long enough that tears get caught on the ends, spilling when she blinks. Some of the tears fall into her hair, others trail into the corner of her mouth. Most drip from her jaw and chin. Her sweater is an absolute casualty.

Briefly, her eyes squeeze shut, her face crumpling slightly. Somehow, the tears manage to fall faster, heavier. After a moment, she shifts forward in her seat, leaning her elbows on the table and lowering her head.

I can't see her face anymore, but I can see her tears, falling steadily from her lashes and splashing onto the table. Her shoulders are shaking now, but her sobs are silent. She just keeps crying. I don't keep track of how long, I just watch the tears gather on the table in a pool.

Abruptly, she rises from her seat. I catch sight of her face, streaked messily with tears, eyes still so full. She turns and leaves the train car in a rush, leaving me alone with the pool of her tears on the table.


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