It started when I was five, after an incident with my mother: I had been wearing my favorite purple pajamas for five days straight when she decided it was time for something else. As she peeled the outfit off my small, soft body, I began to sob, and I continued sobbing every time she took me out in public wearing anything else. Eventually, it worked; I got my purple pajamas back and picked up a valuable life lesson along the way: a willingness to cry unabashedly in public affords a certain kind of freedom. I’ve been known as a “crier” ever since.
When I moved to New York two years ago, I learned that the loneliness that echoes through my bones in this gigantic city has a flipside — precious anonymity. When I cry in public here, not only does no one notice, but no one cares. And thus my crying tour of the city commenced, which has included but is not limited to the following.
The 6 Train, Generally
I most frequently ride the 6 train to and from my apartment in East Harlem. My crying jags tend to center around forms of rejection — an editor who didn’t like my pitch, a classmate who didn’t like my writing, a boy who didn’t, it turned out, like me. I have found, in these moments of despair, that riding the train brings me solace. The first time I discovered this, I was accidentally high off edibles and distraught over a guy, and I rode the train for two hours simply to use it as a place to break down. The next time that same guy disappointed me, I hopped back on the train, sans edibles, and found comfort in the strange ambivalence of a group of strangers seeing me cry.
Outside My Once-Favorite Hookah Lounge
I’ve never gone from being blissed out on lamb tagine to sobbing on a sidewalk so quickly. It started with my boyfriend texting me, asking if I had a minute to “talk.” I told my friends I would be right back and headed outside to take the call — delightfully unaware that I was about to be dumped via phone outside an East Village hookah lounge. I shivered in the cold, begging him to change his mind, and when I failed to do so, I tried to hold back my tears and let me friends without telling them.
On my way to the train, I ran into an old coworker and, in the midst of my desperation, yelled in her direction, “I was just dumped!” She looked appropriately taken aback but approached me anyway. She rubbed my back as tears continued to flow. She also gave me one of the tacos she had been holding. I was bereft, which in my case also means ravenous, so when I finished, I asked if I could have her second taco, too. Two tacos later, I was satiated yet sad, and eventually found my way back home.
Crown Heights Bagel Pub I Won’t Be Seen at Again
It wasn’t long after I arrived at the Crown Heights apartment that I realized I was allergic to the two cats I was hired to watch. Despite years of knowing that household pets are not my thing, I accepted the job because I needed the money. In order to obtain said money, my first task was to empty Blacky and Tiger’s litter box. After scooping up sandy piles of poo, I washed my hands at the bathroom sink and, upon looking in the mirror, found an unfamiliar face staring back at me: The skin around my eyes had expanded, puffy and red. One eye was bigger than the other, making me look like a lopsided Popeye. Obviously, panic ensued.
My powerful imagination told me my trachea felt tight and I knew it was only growing narrower as I gasped for air. I followed emergency protocol and sent a selfie to my mom who responded with a frightened Bitmoji of herself. This did not help. So I googled “what is the maximum amount of Benadryl you can take?” and made my way to Bagel Pub to beg the barista for an iced coffee with which to wash the pills down. I procured the beverage, grabbed a seat, and proceeded to cry.
My Spa a.k.a the Dentist’s Office
A dentist appointment, in my opinion, is like nap time for adults. “Can you lie back?” they ask me. “Don’t mind if I do,” I respond. My cousin, who used to be a dental hygienist, told me that she knew when her patients didn’t floss, and that she liked it when her patients fell asleep. I think of her every time I lie and tell the dentist I floss twice a day. I also think of her every time I close my eyes, pop my headphones in and start to relax as they tilt me back.
But my last appointment for a rogue cavity was antithetical to my expectations. After the shot of anesthesia, I felt my heart begin to race, my hands begin to shake, and then, suddenly, I couldn’t stop crying. I told my dentist that crying like that had happened only once before, as I was being put under before getting my wisdom teeth pulled. “It was just, you know, a bit of crying,” I sobbed, attempting to come off as “breezy.” I don’t think it worked, because instead of drilling away at my rotten tooth, my dentist sat with me, feeding me chocolate milk and breath mints until I quieted down.
That One Therapist’s Waiting Room
I have always loved shopping for a new therapist. I can spend hours on Psychology Today, scrolling through potential prospects, enlarging thumbnail images of different faces and basking in the potential of our “connection.” It’s like Tinder but better; rejection isn’t possible because of the transactional nature of the relationship. With therapy, I’m essentially paying for companionship.
One day, a woman named Susan caught my eye. I imagined her laughing at my jokes, nodding with proud approval at my progress. I imagined us bonding over our mutual love for Oprah and Brené Brown. I imagined her thinking to herself, “She’s my favorite.” Two days later, I found myself on Susan’s couch — which wasn’t quite as comfortable as I had pictured — and I told her I was there because, with my mental health history, I knew I “needed” therapy. “But does anyone really need therapy?” Susan asked. “This girl sure does!” I responded, raising a singular finger in the air. I can only respect the fact that Susan did not laugh. “I’m not sure we would be a good match,” she told me. The rejection stung.
It was in her waiting room, before leaving, that I broke down crying. And I continued crying as I left, because I knew that I was minutes away from familiar territory — her office was just a walk away from the 6.
Feature photo by Fred Stein Archive/Archive Photos via Getty Images.