how to ugly cry in public

Monday, June 30, 2014

Red Butte Cemetery, Aspen

I've always loved cemeteries. They say a lot about the city or town they're in, the culture of the people who live there, the history of a region. I love wandering through them, looking for the oldest headstones or the most ornate or the humblest ones, eroded and covered in lichen. I try to imagine the lives of the people who came before me: What did their laughs sound like? What food did they like best? Were they in love when they died? And I wonder if they still have family who visit them and remember their stories, so many generations later.

Lately, I've found myself seeking solace in cemeteries more and more often. After the past six months, I've become an expert in public crying, and cemeteries are by far, hands down, the absolute best places for a no-holds-barred waterworks display. (I also enjoy my car, airports, public transit and halfway houses -- people are really nice to you if you cry on the doorstep of a halfway house. I've been offered food.) If you are planning to have a mental breakdown any time in the near future, I highly recommend a cemetery.

Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, New Orleans

First of all, hardly anyone hangs out in a cemetery (with the exception of morbid little me, who can't seem to get enough), so there's a strong chance you'll have privacy. And if anyone is actually there and they see you lose your shit, no one questions it because you're in a cemetery and crying is what you are supposed to do there. (Who cares if you're crying in front of the grave of someone who died a century ago? It's still perfectly socially acceptable.)

I always seem to end up in front of the girl who died too young -- 3 years, 6 years, 10 years. I don't do this on purpose; for some reason, the stones I find prettiest always end up being these. And then I sit on the grass and cry -- terrible, ugly, blubbery, body-shaking weeping -- for a good while.

I think about everyone in that cemetery -- all those people and their lives that I can't even fathom. I know we are human and have all felt pain -- the pain of watching loved ones die, the pain of actually dying -- and it makes me feel less alone, like I'm simply part of the fabric of this world, and what I'm undergoing isn't any more or less extraordinary than what anyone else has already experienced or will experience in the future.

Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Seattle

It's this bizarre feeling of release and solidarity. And then when I'm done, I like to lie down in the grass and stare at the sky.

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