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  LIFE AS A LOSER #156: "ROY ORBISON IS A DAMNED WUSSY."  
   
   
 

A friend was telling me the other day that her boyfriend sometimes cries around her.

This was rather stunning to me, and I told her so. Your boyfriend just cries? Like, when he's upset? She was confused by my questions. I think her perception was that I was feeding her some sort of macho bullshit posturing, mocking him for being sensitive. She was partly right, of course; I did think he was kind of a wuss. (And still do.) But I was more befuddled than anything else. The guy just cries. Huh.

I don't cry. I just don't. It's not because I'm some tough guy, or because nothing affects me, or because I just lack the ducts. Crying is just not something I do, and I'm not even sure I would remember how if, God forbid, I actually had a reason to.

When I was a kid, I used to cry all the time. If my sister was making too much noise, if my mom made me eat a brussel sprout, if I struck out in the final inning, anything

 
 

was grounds for loud, relentless wailing. My parents weren't quite sure what to make of me. I seemed like a relatively well-adjusted child, albeit one who tended to attract too much attention to himself, but for some reason, I would cry over anything. My father was the most bothered by this; it's hard to brag about your honor student son when you have to drag him screaming from the mall because you wouldn't buy him his sixth Cardinals hat.

And then, out of nowhere, I just stopped. I think it's probably genetics. The Leitches are not a family of criers. I could count the number of times I've seen my mother cry on one hand. I think part of that has to do with her job. When you're a nurse, you see so much sadness or pain on a daily basis that you almost have to desensitize yourself to it just to stay sane. And my father, I've only seen him cry once, at his father-in-law's funeral. We were following the hearse to the graveyard, and, out of nowhere, he just exploded in a brief, violent spasm. It lasted about three seconds. I was too shocked to talk. He wiped his eyes immediately, collected himself and said, "Um, my underwear must have been too tight." And we never spoke of that again. Which was, you know, just fine with me.

In the last 14 years, I have cried twice. The first was at my grandfather's funeral, my father's father. I had actually stayed rather composed throughout the wake, taking questions about my role as pallbearer the next day and comforting my mom, who actually seemed more distraught than my father did. I was doing fine until I walked up to the casket. My grandfather's name, like mine, was William Franklin Leitch. The physical resemblance of my father to my grandfather is almost uncomfortable; Dad looked like a younger clone. And I look like a younger clone of my father. I stood there, and thought about my father lying there, and then me, and then my son, and I just lost it. My mother started crying too. But, then, like my father, I collected myself, embarrassed, and didn't cry again for 10 years.

I'm proud to report that I never cried after my ex-fiancee left me, no small feat, if I say so myself. After I dropped her off at Los Angeles International Airport, for her flight back to Illinois, a week after handing back the engagement ring, I headed back toward my home in Santa Monica on the 405 freeway. In the tape player was Radiohead's "OK Computer," specifically the song "Exit Music (For a Film)," or, as my cousin Denny calls it, "music to kill yourself to." If there were going to be a time to break down, that would have been it. I was alone. Thom Yorke is screaming in agony. My life had just jagged sharply in an entirely unforeseen direction. But I didn't. I just sighed and drove home and drank, for about nine months, actually.

It was at the end of that nine months that I cried for the final time. I was about to move to St. Louis, and my roommates and I, quite sad to be leaving, decided to spend a beautiful Sunday late afternoon taking mushrooms and walking down the beach. I had done mushrooms a couple of times in college, and they'd pretty much blown me away. I became the kind of guy who started hugging everyone and telling them how much I loved them, saying things like, "You and I are the only two motherfuckers on the planet who understand, man." My roommates and I took off our shoes and walked into the ocean, and laughed and danced and howled at the moon. When we walked back to our apartment, we all grabbed a beer and sat around the living room, listening to Ben Folds Five, for some reason. I was in the middle of a sentence about what life would be like in St. Louis, and how I'd miss my friends in LA, when all of a sudden my roommate Lynda's face went sullen.

"Will, Will … what's wrong? Oh, Will, what's wrong?" I told her nothing was wrong, I'm fine, I'm just trying to tell my story. "Will … I'm so sorry. Is there anything I can do?" Lynda, what are you talking about? Jeez. "You're crying. Why?" I had no idea what she was talking about. She took my hand and led me into the restroom. I looked in the mirror, and tears were streaming down my face, and I appeared to be sobbing uncontrollably. I turned to Lynda. "Wow," I said. "I am crying. Wild."

I have not taken mushrooms since, and, um, I can't say I'm in much of a hurry to again.

So why don't I cry? I don't know, actually. Maybe I am trying too hard to be a tough guy. Maybe I've become so shallow that nothing can affect me at anything more than the most peripheral level. Maybe, just maybe … I don't really have all that much to cry about.

These days, I think the only way you could get me to cry would be to kick me in the groin while peeling an onion under my nose. This confluence of circumstances happens so rarely, however, that I feel I should be safe for a while.

You wussies.

 

*BT*

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