For the last few weeks I have been trying to avoid people who might ask me what I do for a living. I have become scarce at parties and I have avoided my girlfriend’s father for the entire month. I can shake his hand, I can look him in the eye, but I don’t want to answer the questions about my day. I never liked it before, either, because such questions reveal, I think, a smallness of ambition, of scope, of capacity of thought and capaciousness of spirit, but now, with my current occupation, it is different. I cannot talk about what I do.
It’s a simple job. Anyone could do it, but nobody does. There are very few of us. Unfortunately the pay isn’t all that good, but it is enough for me to be able to put a little aside each week, and to pay off any debts that accrue. I am, incorrigibly, bourgeoisie, and I admit that I count my money twice a day, once in the morning and once at night, like a character from Balzac’s novels. But I like it that way.
I cry. Generally at funerals, although sometimes at weddings, and rarely at movie premiers or political speeches. I have a knack for weeping in such a manner that other people are inspired to join me. It’s a wonderful feeling to cry in a room with other people, and it’s better again to be the person who instigated it all. I have wept at speeches about child welfare, abused families, economic hardship, declarations of war, declarations of peace, and at each of these occasions my weeping has added the necessary gravitas to the situation. It’s real if someone is reacting emotionally, and I can, always, always, always, on command. Later, behind closed doors, politicians have shaken my hand, clasped me firmly and looked me in the eye and said, Damian, really, just before, when you cried, I had them. I had them! They were convinced of the rightness of what I do. What we do. What we are all trying to achieve. You turned the tide, my friend. You turned the tide.
I spread my net wider. I have started others crying at the funerals of grandfathers, aunts, mothers, sons, friends, colleagues. I never knew any of them, but of course that doesn’t matter. Later, again, pinched faces, white faces, clasping my hand, thanking me, talking with low voices, recognising that it wouldn’t have been the same without my tears.
I find the way to cry by thinking of summer days. I don’t mean that in a sad way. I love summer days. But there’s something about a summer day that makes me cry. It starts from the bottom of my stomach and feels at first like indigestion. I don’t feel it from my eyes, no. Just my stomach. It swells and expands and enters my chest. My hearts feels odd, like it’s pulsing, like it might burst, and then I wail. I beat my breast. I sob. I tear at my hair. I crouch, I bend, I threaten to break. It’s a release. I love the sunshine of an afternoon. I love meadows. Butterflies. I don’t know. It’s a good job, and I am good at what I do.
I don’t cry at home, no. Just when others are around.
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The above piece of writing comprises part of my fragments project, some of which are available on this website. I intend to add new fragments piecemeal, not in any particular order, and as the occasion take me.