I’ve been collecting my tears. Tiny bottles with stoppers are next to my bed, on my kitchen counter, in my car’s gear well, and at my art studio. Their contents are somewhat misleading because the stoppers are not airtight, allowing tears to evaporate, leaving an amber residue.
But, clearly, I’ve cried most often in bed because that bottle, almost half full, held the most tears. Or did until this morning when I managed to upend the bottle and spill almost everything inside.
Here’s a thing you may not know about tears. Our bodies produce three kinds of tears. One kind clears our eyes of smoke or exhaust. The second kind lubricates our eyes and contains an anti-bacterial enzyme that protects them from infection.
The third kind of tears are emotional tears. Emotional tears contain stress hormones. One purpose of this kind of tears, then, is to release emotional pain and to wash toxins out of our system. This may be why the emotional tears collected in my bottles smell putrid. I had to strip my freshly-made bed and throw sheets and robes into the washer.
But what I was most upset about was the loss of my tears. You see, these bottles are intended to become part of an art installation. I’ve bought a vintage doctor’s bag, the kind with small vials pasted with yellowed and unfamiliar labels. Each bottle of tears will be tagged with its location and given a place in the medical kit. The title of the installation is “The Healer.”
But back to this morning. After I filled the washer and had calmed myself somewhat, it occurred to me to look at this situation as a metaphor.
Tears, kept too long, become rancid.
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