I went to the crying room today. I'd been bottling stuff up for a while and thought it was time to unload, you know the way it is. I thought I'd take advantage of the early bird offer and get a session in for half-price. I met Tom in the changing rooms while I was togging out in my waterproofs. He was about to leave. He seemed grand, cleansed. He had his towel over his shoulder and held a corner of it up to the side of his eye to absorb a final droplet of grief.
'There's himself', said Tom. I said hello. 'In for a bit of a bawl?' he asked, knowing the answer. 'I am', I replied. 'Oh there's some fierce wailing in there today', Tom told me. 'A school bus drove right off the by-pass and the bereaved are inside giving it all they've got.' I sighed. I'd hoped arriving early would give me the opportunity for a quiet little sob but now my misery seemed a bit petty. I wasn't even sure I felt like it anymore. I considered turning back but decided that I'd paid and that all suffering is relative anyway. 'Is it something specific that has you in or are you just having a clear out?' asked Tom. 'The latter', I said. 'What about yourself?' I asked. 'Ah, I was just thinking about my eldest, Glen, and what a disappointment he turned out to be. I found myself thinking about him as a child, full of potential and wonder. I felt something coming on so I hopped in the Subaru and made my way here.' Then Tom laughed. 'The staff will have the mops out later for sure', he said before skipping out the door as if he didn't have a care in the world.
I entered the crying room. The tiled antechambers echoed with intense mewling, blubbering and indecipherably mumbled grievances. The place was like a sauna filled with people dressed in impermeable leggings and long coats, with moisture dripping from the walls caused by tears. It really was very full. I hadn't seen the place this full since the passing of Diana Spencer. That was a terrible day. Goodbye England's Rose playing from the Tannoy. I couldn't get out quick enough.
After a lot of wandering about, I could only find a small space for myself at the end of a crowded bench at the far side of the complex. There was really only room to rest one buttock and I found my precarious position incommodious to lamentation. I couldn't get it together. All the others in floods didn't help either. I'm the same at urinals. I often just give up and resign myself to a dampening of the slacks.
I tried to recall my regrets and misfortunes but it was no use. After a few minutes, I got up and left. I slipped out of my gear, threw my bathing cap in the basket in the foyer and went out into the car park. You couldn't hear anything from out there. They did a good job on the sound proofing. You can hear the crying room in Finglas from streets away but this was Ballinteer and people expect quality. I thought I'd have a secret sob in the van and risk the fine. I thought that might do the trick. I didn't see any emotion wardens around. Why would they be patrolling here anyway? So, I opened the van, climbed into the cabin and put something by Nick Drake in the CD player to get me in the mood. I sat there, waiting for the tears to come. And I waited and I waited and I waited but ...nothing. It wasn't happening. I wasn't sad. I just thought I should be. I had wasted the whole morning in a half assed effort at mourning when I could have been doing something else. Something more fulfilling. And that's when it struck me, I had wasted much of my life trying to be sad because it seemed to me the most appropriate response to this existence. What is it they call life in the Bible? A vale of tears? Some say 'veil' but it's actually 'vale'. Yes, well where were my tears? I mean here I was, right in the middle of the vale and no tears. The whole thing seemed to me another of life's dirty tricks. Another frustration. Children recover from sorrow and are laughing again in no time because they are ignorant. Grown ups know that misery is a sign of maturity. We're reminded every day. Why couldn't I just embrace it? Why couldn't I just let myself go? It was all too much.
Paradoxically, it was thinking about my inability to breakdown that eventually caused me to breakdown. I sat in the van crying my eyes out. I wept and wept and then, looking up through watery tears, I saw an approaching warden and was fined €40 to be paid by the end of the month.
I 'lost the pain and stayed for more'.