Monsoon Boy


Most of the year, my husband is a big man, a strong man. A man’s man, some might say. Most of the year, he communicates in grunts. His emotions, impossible to decipher. I only know he loves me because he doesn’t leave.

Every year, I think it might be the year I leave him, but then monsoon season comes. Monsoon season, he cries over everything. He cries over nothing. A car commercial. A poster for free kittens stapled to a telephone pole. The time-lapse radar on the weather channel. I don’t believe a person can truly burst into tears, but he comes the closest I’ve ever seen: he gasps his cheeks full of air and pops like a water balloon, rivulets pouring from his eyes, charting tributaries down his face, dripping off his chin, salting and soggying his meals when the glint of silverware reminds him of his great-grandmother’s earrings, short-circuiting his keyboard when he watches a video montage of soldiers returning, surprising their loved ones, their dogs who somehow, after all this time, still remember them by the scent of their aftershaves, of their perfumes.

Together, we go see a horror-punk concert at the Gator Lounge, a rock venue with alligator heads trophied on every wall. They’re not real, I assure him when he trembles at the sight. The band is one of his high school favorites, I can only guess at the sentimental memories attached to them, but he remains composed throughout the show. He doesn’t cry until the final song, when the band comes back onstage for the encore, soaking wet, shirts stuck tight to skin. We went for a smoke but it’s pouring now, the guitarist says before striking the opening chords. My husband drapes his solid arms over me, and I know it’s going to happen. I gave you my heart, you wanted my throat, the band sings, and my husband, he is a sobbing mess. I listen for the rain outside, steady beneath the music, detectable there in the hard stops of the song. When we arrived that night, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

He’s still blubbering as we file out with the crowd, so I drive his car through the onslaught of rain and dark. I set the windshield wipers at top speed but the rain is like a thick glass wall, I can only spot cars ahead of us when their lights appear, fist-sized fireflies hovering above slick pavement. The water’s pooling in the streets, and he warns me about hydroplaning, tells me—between hiccups—not to slam the brakes if I feel the tires lose traction. He guides me down neighborhood streets, tells me to avoid major roadways. They’ll be flooded by now, he says. Poor drainage in the desert. Sometimes, people drown trying to drive through it. He cries along with the world. The wipers squeak back and forth in time with his quickened breath.

The sad or maybe lucky part of it all is I like when he cries. It turns me on. I love to watch him curl and crumple under the weight of his weeping. I love when he cries in bed, so full of love at the sight of me, I can feel his tears stream down my body. Sometimes I’m even mean, I say cruel things to try to knife-twist his insides just right, but it doesn’t work like that—his face may flip into sadness, but he rarely cries when I want him to. Now, driving him home, I want him to put his hand on my thigh, to coast it up to the button of my wet and heavy jeans, to lean over and press his clumped lashes to my neck.

When we get home, I lead him from the car by the hand, into our house, through the dark kitchen with pans soaking in the sink, down the puddled hallway where a steady drip of rain drops through the air conditioning vent—a hole in the roof no handyman has been able to fix—until we spill into our bedroom. I pull him down on the mattress, its springs yelping at our weight. I lie back and lift his slumped body onto me. He kisses me sloppy. Soon we’re out of our clothes. He’s racked with sobs. He’s shuddering inside me. Why are you crying? I ask, I always ask, even though I know he won’t have an answer. I don’t know, he says, again and again, I don’t know. I love this mystery, this great well in him that overflows these short few weeks at the end of the summer. It’s sadness, but also joy, but also something else. I bite his ear. We move faster and faster against each other. I imagine basins filling, cactus roots sucking rain up and into them. I envision groundwater replenished, the desert open to me like a cross section from a book on geology, like an empty ant farm—the whole desert pressed between glass and put on top of my dresser.

After, we lie in dampened silence, the sheets wet from his tears, our sweat, from me, from him. Outside, the fingers of rain tapping against the glass slow, then stop. That’s how it is during monsoon season: as quickly as the clouds gather, the sky clears. His crying is the same. He too bursts, then breaks. His eyes turn faucet-off. He wipes a sleeve across his face, clears his throat, doesn’t sniff a single sniffle. You’d never guess he’d just been stutter-sobbing, although sometimes the puddles at his feet give it away. In the morning, the rain has already evaporated, and he won’t talk about the geysers sprung from his eyes. Patiently, I await his next downpour.


Come October, monsoon season ends. The specter of clouds dissipates. The rains stop coming. He stops crying. He becomes the hard, stoic man his boys at the shop know. I sip strawberry lemonade on our porch. He’s not home. Working late again, or at the bar. I look out across the cracked landscape, the rash of mountains on the horizon. I rub lotion up and down my arms, Chapstick my lips. Everything, all the world, gone dry, dry, dry. You know, I can’t remember the last time I cried.  

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