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My Face Goes Wet Sometimes

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My Face Goes Wet Sometimes

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Travis Laurence Naught, a quadriplegic wheelchair user, shares about the act of crying, how he experiences it and the ways it impacts him.

Crying is a bother. A necessary bother, to be sure. I allow my tear ducts to crack open and moisten my face more frequently than my father realizes. Sometimes, it’s not a question of allowance. There are moments when ghosts kick me in the face. I still remember the laugh I elicited from a poet friend of mine some years back when I turned that phrase in front of him. Another performer was reciting a poem about some banal subject or another (copier ink running dry; or counting the grains of sand on a pair of shorts worn at the beach; or some other ridiculous thing that doesn’t affect me directly) and all the sudden I started weeping. This is not an uncommon experience for me in my life.

Frequently, my tears are selfish. My best friend left town in the summer of 2012. We stayed up all night while she packed her bags to fly to Florida to start the next phase of her life. I was dropped off at my house on her way to the airport. She flew away. I woke up to an emptier reality. I cried nearly the entire day. I bought collectibles from a married couple whose adult son had died a couple of months prior. I cried. I drove my wheelchair down to a local barbecue festival so I could enjoy live music. I cried. My parents helped me turn on one of my favorite comedies so I could relax from the night before and my busy day out and about. I cried.

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Using voice technology to type adds another level of difficulty when crying. It is never just tears running down my face during a good cry. There is an internal upheaval. Breathing hitches. There is a combination of psychological and physical seizing that sends my body into near uncontrollable rhythms. Trying to get the words out through one of these experiences is damn near impossible. “Write hot,” they say. “Edit cold.” I cannot write hot because the microphone sitting in front of me cannot decipher my intentions around the quaking, garbled words drowning in emotion. It is so frequent that I have to take a moment, somewhere between thirty seconds and an hour, to compose myself so that I may continue. It’s an excuse I use for not writing about difficult material. It’s a shitty excuse for not doing the work.

I remember being told on occasion, “If you keep crying, I’ll give you something to cry about.” It was an empty threat. There was never a follow-up action. I did not always quit crying. Those words were delivered out of discomfort with emotion. Discomfort with not being in control drove those words. Imagine being able to have such control over oneself that it can be a simple decision to just turn off the tears. Funerals have proven that the person who would tell me to stop crying has no more control than I do. And while there is good reason to cry at a funeral, I have never been interested in correcting that behavior in another, regardless of the venue.

A doctor prescribed me an anti-anxiety and low-dose antidepressant in 2019. It was in response to my tracheostomy surgery. New threats on life occur when relying on an installed breathing apparatus. I started taking them in May. They took a few weeks to take full effect. By the middle of June, I was no longer weeping. In fact, I was no longer even going blurry visioned during the saddest of movies. Disney movies have made me cry since I was a child. Really sad commercials during the holidays even make me fuzz up. I’m empathetic to the point of emotional mirroring. Nothing was bringing a tear to my eye anymore.

Disney movies have made me cry since I was a child. Really sad commercials during the holidays even make me fuzz up. I’m empathetic to the point of emotional mirroring.

I was also not writing as much. I was not finding as much joy in things as I once was, either. The world was dull. Funny things would come on TV, and I would recognize them as funny, but I would not laugh. I would recognize things as joyous but feel no elation. The lack of fulfillment I was experiencing disturbed me.

Conversely, I dove into the reality that I was not held back by my fear or paranoia of striking out into the world anymore. Extroverted tendencies have always kept me moving in crowds, but there were new things to worry about. The prescription had served its necessary function. My needs had been met and I was ready to cycle off of the medication. I am grateful, these three years later, to have transitioned into my new normal using the available medical technology. I stopped taking that medication six months after starting it.

Last week, I went to a country concert. Every woman I have ever loved stood on stage and sang “I Wish I Was” by Maren Morris to me. Metaphorically, of course, but as she sang that song, I cried. A crowd of over 4,000 people sang along around me. I cried. There was this powerful coming together of fandom and emotionality through music, everyone experiencing their own interpretation, enjoying themselves in their own ways. I probably wasn’t the only one crying. To be able to join in that type of catharsis is one of my favorite ways of living.


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Travis Laurence Naught

Travis Laurence Naught is an author who happens to be a quadriplegic wheelchair user. Individual poems, stories, and various other material by Travis have been published online (Section 8 Magazine, Empty Sink Publishing, Damfino Press, and others) and in print (Gold Man Review, Lost Coast Review, Empirical Magazine, and more). His first book of poetry, The Virgin Journals (ASD Publishing, 2012), is currently out of print, but copies can still be found. Check out naughtapoet.blogspot.com for more information and original writing by Travis.