My new gym is small and the machines are shabby, but they have this wonderful, tiny, low-lit room with two bikes, two ellipticals, a stair stepper, a muted flatscreen TV and a DVD player. Initially I was drawn to this room because the darkness and the unspoken agreement to remain silent combined to make it a perfectly antisocial workout space (also, I could avoid listening to terrible dance music while watching closed captioned Fox News in the larger workout room). At first I didn’t bother bringing headphones because I didn’t care what video was playing as it was usually a dumb action movie with a barely memorable title like "The Sum of All Fears". But then one day I noticed that some generous person left “Glee” Season 1 for all to enjoy. Now I’m totally addicted to it.
But that isn’t the point of this post. That’s just a lead in to the strange but increasingly typical experience I had two weeks ago. I was at the gym by myself. I had forgotten my headphones, but decided to watch closed captioned “Glee” anyway (shows you how great their writing is – I got hooked just reading the captions, which often made me laugh out loud). It was the episode when diva Rachel quits the glee club because she doesn’t get the solo she wants and Mr. Schuester replaces her with his former classmate, who is an older, alcoholic, high school drop-out played by Kristin Chenoweth. The story is about the drunk lady redeeming herself after years of screwing up and she hits her peak when she performs a kick-ass number in front of the whole school. But Mr. Schuester cans her immediately because she's still drunk and she’s been a bad influence on the kids (but she knows she should go, too, so there’s no hard feelings, in case you’re concerned). And just as Mr. Schuester is about to tell the audience that the glee club will not be able to perform their second number, a humbled Rachel asks if she can be let back into the club and offers to sing lead on their second song (which, of course, she already knows by heart, though we the audience don’t know what song it is). At first, the other kids are reluctant to let her back in because she’s been such an egotistical jerk but then Finn says they should because everyone deserves a second chance and that is, after all, the theme of the episode. So with the help of Rachel, the glee club takes the stage and belts out – oh, what could it be?!? – “Somebody to Love” by Queen. And I cried. I cried on the goddamn elliptical machine to an episode of “Glee” that I could not even hear.
This non-sad crying has happened often in the past several weeks. It's as if my emotions are amplified. Admittedly, my eyes have been historically prone to teary-ness, especially when I witness something beautiful, like the view from a nearby mountaintop, or triumphant, like when Dan's dissertation committee first referred to him as "Doctor". But actual, tears-running-down-my-face crying is something I used to control better.
I guess that now I'm in a new place, I don't feel the need to control it. A few weeks ago at work, an elderly woman and her middle aged daughter returned to the bakery after lunch because the mom had lost her amethyst ring. I brought it to her from the lost-and-found pile, and she just sighed and began sobbing. Then she told me that her late husband had given it to her on their first anniversary. Then I started crying and it was a glasses day, so I had to shove a napkin under my spectacles to wipe away my tears. She kept offering to reward me and I kept saying, "No, no. I'm just glad you came back for it." And she kept crying and I kept crying. Then I helped the next guy in line who said some dopey, sexist thing like, "It must be a chick thing," because apparently we were making him uncomfortable. But I really didn't care. I just went about my work and a few minutes later my face was dry again.
Perhaps now that I am almost completely surrounded by strangers, I feel free to be as gushy as I please. Okay, when "Glee" makes me cry at the gym (yeah, it's happened more than once, but only one time when I couldn't hear it), I get a little embarrassed, but at least there I can pretend it's sweat. I have sad-cried a couple times since we moved here, out of loneliness, or because I dreaded going to work (more about that some other time). But generally I either feel excited about the future or a present sense of exhilaration. So I've decided that I'm not going to worry about my amplified emotions. I'm going to go with the flow of my eye brine.
In closing, I would like to share an artistic masterpiece that always makes me cry. It is Otis Redding performing "Try a Little Tenderness" the night before his tragic passing. I still can't get over the fact that he was only twenty six years old. He seems like the kind of guy who lived as if each day might be his last.