The majestic roar of water, endless gallons of water carving through the land, filled the rocky ravine where we stood, blasted by the forceful mist produced by the incessant rage of the thundering falls.
“Where does all this water come from?” the child asked, as we carefully followed the guide. The big rock formations were slippery. I was clumsy. I watched over the kid, worried that he might fall or something. But I envied his youth: carefree, only concerned with getting from here to there, fear of injuries outweighed by the power of curiosity. And here I am, too concerned making sure I get home without a bandage or a crutch.
“From up there.” I grumpily said.
“But how did it get up there?” the child insisted.
“Geo physics.” I replied, hoping that would shut him up.
“How does giyo… geo six… bring the water up there?” he pointed upwards. The top of the falls was like a perpetual crashing of waves— except it never ebbed, never rested, never relented from pounding the world beneath it.
I sighed. “The water itself comes from the heart of the mountain; or rather, from underneath it. The pressure from underground continually pushes it upwards.”
The child was silent for a moment. Thank God. I quickly tried to catch my breath. I needed to go to the gym more often. Then, he asked again, “A mountain has a heart?”
This time, I paused. And with a grin, I replied: “Yup. And waterfalls are created because they can’t stop crying.”
He stared at me with innocent, curious, confused eyes.
I laughed, and tickled him. He giggled, then we continued walking on the muddy path.
* * *
I came home late. The house was silent, except for a sobbing sound from his room. I sighed. I was tired from work. What is it now? I wondered. Still, I knocked at his door. The sobs stopped, followed by a distinct click of the door knob.
He locked it.
I tried knocking again. “Hey, you okay?”
I sighed again, and just went to the kitchen. Food first, family duty later. Yes, I know my priorities. One cannot be a father on an empty stomach— at least, for now.
I was already washing the dishes when he came to the kitchen, rummaging through the refrigerator. “You haven’t had dinner yet?” I asked. He didn’t bother to answer me; he just carried a box of cereals to the living room like a cat silently carrying some dead prey. I felt annoyed.
A few minutes later, I heard it: the silence. He didn’t even bother to turn on the TV.
This is serious.
I quickly dried off and went to the living room. He was lazily munching on his breakfast pack, one cereal kernel at a time.
“Hey.” I said. He made no effort to look at me. Are you okay? I wanted to ask. Obviously, he’s not. I wasn’t in the mood for any sarcasm from my own kid.
“So, what happened?”
“I cried at school.”
“Because… my crush, she didn’t want to talk to me anymore.”
“I didn’t cry because she was avoiding me; it was because my classmates kept teasing me about it.”
“And that made her feel uncomfortable.” He paused, then with an embarrassed look, continued. “That’s why I punched Ken.”
“I know. I’m sorry. He cried so hard. I was sent to the principal’s office.”
Great. So that means I have to go visit the school as well.
“He just scolded me. Sorry, Dad. Can you come with me tomorrow?”
I sighed, dipped my hand into his box of cereals, and munched on a handful. Then with a weak smile, nodded.
“Did you cry because of your crush, or because you punched Ken? Or because of the principal?”
He wiggled his feet nervously. “I… I didn’t cry while I was at school. I only cried when I came home… and suddenly, I remembered Mom.”
Now, I wanted to cry.
I didn’t have to ask further. I didn’t want to ask further.
That night, I cried in my bed as well.
* * *
Just when you thought having gone through breakups and heartaches during your younger years gives you that golden experience and wisdom to guide others, God just had to give you a teenage son.
“Hey, you’ll—” I stopped right there. You’ll find someone else. True, but so untrue. Instead, I slowly said, “just cry it out.”
He looked at me, eyes hollowed by late nights spent video gaming through his adolescent sorrows. “I don’t want to cry.”
“You should. You need to.”
“I want to be stronger than that, Dad.”
“Crying doesn’t make you weak.”
“But not crying shows you can handle it: the pain, everything.”
“Maybe. But what not crying doesn’t show is how it’s damaging you from the inside. You need to let it out.”
“Not true. We stopped crying over Mom a long time ago— it just goes to show we’re both stronger now.”
“I… I guess. I still miss her, though.” he admitted.
“I miss her, too. And I still cry when I remember her.”
He scoffed. “Liar.”
“Haha! I still do. A man doesn’t always cry with his tears, you know.”
He raised his eyebrow at me.
“I mean, yeah— we can cry anytime we want to. But as men, we learn to adapt: turn our tears into sweat, that kind of stuff. We cry with our handicrafts. We cry with our sports. We cry while planting and harvesting. Everytime I remember her, my heart still squeezes painfully, but I just knew that I have to keep on living, keep doing what I love to do because if she was here, I knew she loved watching me do it, too.”
Liar, I told myself. I was on the verge of tears, right there and then.
He patted my back. He was crying. And before I realized it, I was crying, too.
“Dad,” he asked, after fighting over a roll of tissue.
“Remember the waterfalls?”
“About how mountains don’t stop crying?”
I nodded. Another lie. But a vague one, this time.
“Let’s go there again.”
I nodded. This time, for real.
* * *