THEY well up in my eyes out of nowhere. In seconds I am sobbing silently in my car. The stretch from Lafayette to Fremont, California, on Interstate 680 seems more beautiful than words. It is still morning and something very grand is present in this valley. I turn the radio on and the music adds a layer of pleasure and excitement to the wonder of California hills alongside me. The splendor of scenery evokes a passion and sentimentality in me. I drive on to meet Tony in Fremont, realizing how much I enjoy 65 m.p.h. on a day like this, the warmth of the sun hitting my face, the sensation of movement on this freeway and those spotted cows dotting the greening landscape.
Then they come, these great big tears flowing down my cheeks. I glance around me, stealing sights of nature while grabbing for Kleenex. The morning sun's glare nearly blinds me as rays careen off the hood of my '85 Jetta. I slip on sunglasses and roll down the window, feeling a crisp gust of cool wind brushing the side of my face. The coolness of tears drying on my cheekbones forms a curious backdrop to the expanse of freeway before me, one of the prettiest stretches of road I know in the world.
I grow conscious of the hissing revolutions of my car's tires spinning on the road. I am moving, cars pass me, the day is before me, my life is before me. More tears come. I ask myself what produces them, where do they come from? I'm not sure. Not really. Sometimes you go a long time without crying, and then all of a sudden the gates are flung open and out they pour. They surprise you, embarrass you, but often soothe and comfort you all at once.
My tears are personal tragedies, I suppose, sorrow clinging to me like anemones on ocean rocks. They are the failed friendships since grade school; the telephone calls without responses; the daughter who doesn't know me; an aging, handsome father I rarely see, his black and white photograph haphazardly there on the dresser without a frame. Tears are part of this human enlightenment. They represent my leaving Vietnam intact, my two divorces, my lost opportunity for being a father to my child.
Tears are for terribly great movies too, terribly great movies. Well, this stuff really has to stop. I must keep my head, I tell myself as I continue almost uncontrollably sobbing while grabbing for more Kleenex and trying to keep the steering wheel straight.
``Salaam Bombay,'' that's a movie that made me cry. ``Beaches'' was another one. A man can cry, even alone, I tell myself - even alone, while thinking of absolutely nothing but the fragile beauty of a day, a gracious act of friendship to carry out, and if tears come, so what? So what. I can cry. And I want to feel good about it. Real good. I think of stopping until this is over but decide to keep driving.
I AM the third person. A man driving and crying in his car. A little brown speck of nothing with a master's degree. Alone on a Saturday morning, the radio blaring twangy, country music, I drive and cry. How pathetic and how human. Then I begin feeling a sense of release. I am hopeful, realizing that something very grand above this small planet, above these beautiful brown California hills, above this grand valley and perhaps in my very gut allows my expression. I vow not to pass up the Fremont exit.
My life is a sum of these days, these years. I suppose that's a part of what I feel. I am a quantity, a summation of what the little brown boy from Par'as, Nuevo Le'on, Mexico, eventually became. I look back and am sorry for that little sweet boy who had so little love around him, who lost his mother at the age of 14. Then high school alone. College alone. The tears well and stream down my cheeks. I begin to hear myself sob again. I am alone. Again. I add up to nothing. Again.
The world reverberates. Everything passes by me. Cows become tears. The valley is heaven. The immense pleasure of my drive, the time I've just cried in this car, the time spent here, the transitory quality of life's happiness, the sum of who I am - all of it I seemed to have experienced these last 40 minutes.
We retell our lives to ourselves sometimes like this, don't we? The truth is I was crying for all that I never became, for what I never reaped for myself, what I failed to see; what I never learned till now, when it seems so very late. I look up at my rearview mirror, slip my sunglasses off for a second and see the redness still there in my brown eyes. In a strange way, I feel proud of the redness. I'm just living, man, just living. But I hope Tony doesn't notice.