The thing that set Claude off on his crying jag was a sense of obligation cultivated over the years that required him to have a good soul-laundering sob fest every once in a while. At first the crying was strictly mechanical, an effort to awaken the sorrow and regret that was stirring within. Sometimes it took a while to arouse those feelings, depending on how good a day he was having. A good day would not be spoiled by this ritual but rather enhanced by it.
He usually did his crying in the privacy of his apartment where he could really let go a wail; but then came the knocking on the ceiling of the apartment below. He was getting no sympathy from this particular neighbour who wore a harried expression whenever he ran into her at the elevator. She obviously had him pegged as the crybaby. This would drive him outside to commit his tears to the public domain.
His weeping often elicited sympathy from others, friends and strangers alike – mostly strangers as his friends were accustomed to this purging and tended to give him wide berth when stumbling upon the spectacle of him bathing in his tears. Women dominated the numbers of those who reached out to him. “Would it help to talk about it?” some would ask, perhaps hopeful that their concern alone would be sufficient. He would generally stop crying long enough to thank them and bless them for showing compassion and they would go away relieved at not having to suffer this sack of woe.
Men’s reactions were more along the lines of “Got something wrong with you, pal?” or “Wish I could help but I got problems of my own.” One fellow gave him a reassuring pat on the shoulder and told him, “it gets better” before continuing on his way. His presumptuousness did not go unchallenged as Claude called out to him, “I’m not gay.”
“Of course you’re not,” the fellow had gamely replied.
One intervener of note had his own notion as to what his crying was all about. “Is it man’s inhumanity to man that brought you to this? Well, you know what I say? I say, man started it, man will finish it; and eventually man will break the cycle.”
Once he took his keening to a nearby bridge where it would be drowned out by the traffic. The reason he never did that again was because a passing motorist or possibly more than just one made the obvious assumption that one would make, seeing a crying man on a bridge. Soon the Police arrived and he had to undergo psychiatric evaluation before they let him go home.
One morning when Claude was thinking about how long it had been since his last cry, he saw a notice on the bulletin board in the Glengarden Library, inviting one and all to a laughter seminar. He fancied the idea. He could see how that might possibly provide a balance to the weeping.
It was happening in the basement of the Unitarian Church; although it was not presented as a Church thing; perhaps the initiative of some parishioner who was into that sort of thing and who maybe had eyes to establish an affiliate assembly of like-minded people who needed a good laugh and not necessary at something intended to excite laughter.
They all just sat comfortably on the floor and laughed mirthlessly at such strain to their bodies, it reminded Clause of basic military training which had made him cry more than once .
Eventually the laughter facilitator, would slow the laughing down until everyone sounded off in perfect unison: ‘ Ha!’ Claude had never seen a Becket play; but if he had, he would have sworn at this moment that he was in one.
Claude was anticipating screenings of classic movie comedies, perhaps followed by some freewheeling improv; but as it turned out, comedy was never mentioned. During a break from the perfunctory gaffawing, Claude crack a joke about two cannibals who had just feasted on a clown. One asked the other how he it tasted and he answered “ Kinda funny” No one laughed. One of the men women thought it was disgusting.
When everyone was invited back into the room, Claude chose not to be in that number. He just wanted to go home and cry. And for once, he had a reason.