On Tears

Tears leave the body at a temperature of 98.6 degrees. It is difficult to experience this from the tear rolling down your own cheek. But stand close to someone who is weeping, let a drop fall onto your arm, your wrist, and you feel the sudden heat immediately. We are, in fact, continually weeping. The eyes are bathed in tears that protect, cleanse, lubricate. Crying anoints the cornea in holy oils, keeps the lens bright, rinses dust from the eyes. This veil of tears is anatomically correct. Tears always appear at the extremes, greasing the joints between pleasure and pain. Unlike grief, tears have extraordinarily short half-lives. No sooner are they shed than they begin to fade, evaporate, to disappear. “Nothing dries sooner than a tear,” Benjamin Franklin once observed. Which is why we all have an endless supply.

This abbreviated essay originally appeared in the March issue of Ode, on sale now.