The Currency of Tears

In Nevada Barr’s novel, A Superior Death, Ms. Barr describes a tender encounter between the principal character, Anna Pigeon, and a diver named Hawk.

“I’m sleeping on the Belle tonight,” she said. “Can I offer you a nightcap?”

“Only if the night comes with it.”

“It does.”

They walked together, not touching, to the boat. Anna latched the cabin door behind them… Hawk sat on the blue-vinyl-covered bench and watched without speaking as Anna cranked open the hatch, letting in the soft night air, the light of the stars. He watched while she put two cassettes in her well-used player and punched play on one side and pause/play on the other. As Cher’s voice sang, “It’s in his kiss,” he smiled.

“Be gentle with me,” he said and Anna laughed.

“Your first time?”

“Might as well be.”

“Orphans in the storm.” She sat beside him and he took her face in his hands, smoothed her hair back with callused fingers.

“If anything was new to Anna, it was the sadness. As they made love, sweetly, gently, she felt Hawk’s tears falling on her neck and breast. She found herself crying too, without knowing why. In sympathy, she realized, but whether for Hawk or herself she couldn’t tell.”

Excerpt from A Superior Death by Nevada Barr

A tender encounter, for sure. And the tears, the tears falling on Anna’s neck and breast. A mix of Hawk’s from not being able to be with someone he loved more than Anna and of Anna’s from missing a husband who died much too soon.

We make lots of concessions on our way through life, especially in honor of love. The more painful ones come to tears. But love is not a feeling. It is being for the other person. “To love is to be for another and to act for another, even at a cost to oneself” (Charlene Payne Kammerer). In the freedom we give ourselves for loving, the loving may require a payment in a currency of tears.

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