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What I do not understand is where the tears go.

A baby’s 2:00 A.M. cries for mother’s milk. Perhaps an ounce.

A child’s skinning a knee. A couple of tablespoons’ worth, possibly.

Lost and rejected love. Forgotten friendship. Faded ardor. Could be a handkerchief or two, full each night for weeks or more, then only some of the days each week, eventually but a few times a year, unexpectedly. Even forever.

And diagnoses of breast cancer and AIDS, and calls and knocks on the door, bedside waits for the fact to match the knowledge and quiet words of anonymous doctors in too-sterile tile rooms, deaths of parents and children and spouses and pets and one’s own dreams. Towels and buckets.

And infants and adults hungry and abused and all without the chance at comprehension. Bowls and tubs.

The cruel fate of innocent animals and butterflies and ants. Photographs of missing children on lampposts.

Silent, sometimes sudden weeping. Soft sobbing. Wails and unstifleable rage. Shrieking, keening.

On battlefields, IRT steam grates, and freshly dug graveside soil, in downtown YMCA rooms, half-empty king-size beds, automobiles in the brightest sunshine, and windowless office restroom stalls.

And billions of eyes in two thousand centuries of humanity. Ponds and creeks, streams and lakes and rivers. Oceans.

What I’d like to know is: why was the planet flooded just once?


Ellis J. Biderson has been published in many venues, including “Best American Essays 2014.”