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The life and death of a teardrop


As far as Marcy was concerned, her university should fire the student counsellor; a condescending lady, in a mustard cardigan, named Jane. And while they were at it, they should fire 90% of the lecturers too. Fire them for standing behind their lecterns, like corpses – each one animated only by their intellect, their heart a pile of damp ashes.  Someone should fire them all, and then fire themself for not doing it sooner.

But right now, it was only Marcy who was under the microscope, picked apart for failing and failing. Questioned as to why she couldn’t cope. All her answers challenged, like she was defending a thesis, and not her own tired brain. It sucked. She groaned and laid her head on her little dorm desk, feeling the paper of her A4 pad stick to her cheek.

Thanks to the counsellor she now had two things to do today, instead of one.

One was… plan this frickin essay on ‘Ibsen’s women’….

And yes, ideally write it. The deadline was tomorrow. But right now….right now…she couldn’t bear to look at her laptop, let alone open it. Her laptop sat clamped shut on the bed, behind her. It took the place where she should be, shut down and asleep.

Marcy forced herself to sit up in her stiff desk chair. She stared at the poster over her desk, a cute little kitten asleep on a stack of books. She too would sleep on a book bed, if that was an option.

But nope. Thanks to the counsellor, there was ‘no real cause for essay extension’. And what’s more, she had given Marcy an additional task….

Task number two was a mindfulness exercise, that Marcy was to complete via an app on her phone, so that counsellor Jane could check that she had completed it. Excellent. Another opportunity to fail and be judged. Also, perfect given that Marcy was trying her best to break up with her phone, rather than check relentlessly on her ex.

Marcy’s heart sped up at the thought of her ex, and not in a good way. In that panicky way that threatens to burn your organs and melt your brain.

She knew enough, without the stupid app, to breathe, and count her breaths. It wasn’t like she hadn’t tried to solve this cocktail of problems for herself. Marcy instructed herself to relax her shoulders back and down. She let a breath out slowly, through her nose, and wrote down her own mindfulness exercise, minus phone. She would submit that to Jane as evidence, as proof.


  1. Close eyes
  2. Check in with body
  3. Breathe
  4. Focus on a body part of your choice.

Marcy sighed. Now that she’d dutifully written it down for Jane, with her very best gel pen, she made the adjustments needed in her own head.

  1. Close your eyes, but don’t fall asleep. You HAVE to open them again in a few minutes. Deal?
  2. Check that you still have a body. Did you eat today? You really should eat. But not right now.
  3. Breathe. Keep breathing. Always.
  4. Maybe you should focus on your eyes as your body part? So that they don’t stay shut, like little limpets in your sockets.

Got it?

Marcy nodded to herself.

She closed her eyes. She reminded herself that she had a body. Her socked feet felt cold. She needed to wash her hair. Was that a sensation? Now that she thought about it, she could swear that she felt the grease spreading out over her scalp.

‘Ok stop! Marcy Alexander, you need to focus. You have to focus.’ Inside her brain the task-master appeared full force, and barked at her, his breath steaming in the chill. ‘Breathe. Out. In. Out. In….Focus on your eyes. Follow the instructions for goddamn once.’

Marcy braced against his voice, and did her best to tune him out, like she was taking a hard turn in a car. Then she coasted sideways in her thoughts. Maybe it would be better to leave this place, and go somewhere else…not home, definitely not home…and get a kitten and a book bed. That could work.

‘Marcy! Eyes!’

Marcy jolted in her chair, and tried to follow the task-master’s orders.

Ok, one eye. Left eye….

It was hard enough to live with a dictator-brain. Only to be bossed around by other brains on legs wherever she went……In the corridors and the lecture halls. In…


Ok, left eye….

She felt a single prick of pressure, right at the corner, and put all her concentration, all her attention, onto that one speck. Her body was doing something…making a single teardrop. Mixing salt with water somehow in the stores that were set behind her eyes? Pretty creepy. She imagined a little salt cellar, and a little wishing well, and a little goblin with a bucket and a pipette, doing its best to get the quantities right. Then setting the angle up so it could squeeze a single drop out through Marcy’s tear-duct.

Marcy kept her attention on the warmth of this tear. A new baby of a tear.

She made an ‘UCK!’ sound in her brain, that ricocheted out of her throat. She shuddered in the slime of the grossness of her thoughts. She did not want to be birthing tears like her tear duct was… ‘NOOOOOOO!’ her brain yelled, and once again it came out of her mouth. Mindfulness was a sure path to making everything weirder than it already was.

But the tear was still rolling, so she had to track it. She had to. This was it’s one life. This teardrop would never exist again. She owed it to the teardrop to pay attention.

Wow, mindfulness was also so great at weighing your heart down with sacks of guilt. Marcy shrugged. At least it meant she still had a heart. That hadn’t been air-dried out of her by all the talk of the last term. The lectures. The hour-long conversations with her ex, as they circled and circled before they finally split. Maybe she was really doing ok? All things considered.

The teardrop reached the corner of her mouth. Should she put out her tongue to catch it? To taste it? Or would that be weird too? Like she was a cannibal of her own emotions? Of her own self-made goblin juice?

Marcy choked out a disgusted cough-cry-laugh of a sound.

She tipped her head forward, and the tear dropped and plashed onto her page. She didn’t have good enough ears to hear it, but she knew that ‘plashed’ was exactly the word to describe it. And when  she opened her eyes, she confirmed that this was the case.

Her tear had plashed right onto the gel-penned MIND of mindfulness, inking it out into a splot that Jane could have a field day with, if she gave her one of those movie-psychologist tests. ‘Now look at this, and tell me what you see…’

Marcy stared at the blot, and without counsellor Jane there to appease, she let herself speak the truth.

It’s a…valley.

It’s an…ice-cream…

It’s a dead teardrop. Just the one.

It’s a…heart.

It’s a…stain.

It’s …all of these.

It’s…kind of me.

Week 14

Update….I watched this video recently (An Evening with Ray Bradbury), and I have decided to go FULL RAY:

What this means is that I am taking Ray Bradbury up on the challenge to do the following for 1000 nights:

  1. Read one poem
  2. Read one essay
  3. Read one short story

(I have been reading a short story collection a month up to this point.)

His challenge also includes one short story a week, for a year. At the castle retreat I committed to writing one a week until Christmas. (24 total). But I am now going to extend it to a full year. … If I can do 24, I can do 52.

And the truth is that it has been a really fun challenge. It has given me so many opportunities to just try things out.

This week I was wondering about the moment from a tear leaving a tear duct to it falling. And I got to quickly put that into a very simple frame. I think it could be fun to explore the same tiny moment in other contexts and for different characters.

It was so worth an hour of my day to have a brief play with it. And next week I will get to try out something else…

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