This is a passage from Pat Conroy's poetically fearless tribute to the connections between flawed parents and their equally flawed children, Beach Music. The adult brothers have just found out that their tortured (and torturing), luminous, baffling, aggravating, much-beloved mother has come out of a leukemia-induced coma.
Darkness came up on us and stars lit up one by one in the eastern sky. I thought about my own tears, the ones I had never cried over Shyla. In the days after her death I waited for them to come in floods, but none appeared. Her death dried me out and I found more desert land in my spirit than rain forest. My lack of tears worried, then frightened me.
So I began to study other men and was comforted to find I was not alone. I tried to come up with a theory that would explain my extreme stoicism in the face of my wife's suicide. Each explanation became an excuse, because Shyla Fox McCall deserved my tears if anyone on earth ever did. I could feel the tears within me, undiscovered and untouched in their inland sea. Those tears had been with me always. I thought that, at birth, American men are allotted just as many tears as American women. But because we are forbidden to shed them, we die long before women do, with our hearts exploding or our blood pressure rising or our livers eaten away by alcohol because that lake of grief inside us has no outlet. We, men, die because our faces were not watered enough.
"Have another beer, Tee," Dallas said. "It'll help."
"Don't need help, bro," Tee answered. "I'm crying because I'm happy."
"No," I said. "Because you can."