A Recipe for Crocodile Tears

Not everyone can cry on command.

I understand. Not all of us can produce tears on demand. I don’t judge. Crying in public requires a certain intimacy with one’s own feelings, as well as a baseline depth of emotion—uncorking that bottle is frightening. Perhaps you knew the deceased, but not particularly well. Or you’ve been stunned by terrible news and appear wooden. Perhaps your partner spends all evening sobbing into your shoulder, insisting that if you truly cared for them, you’d feel what they feel.

Maybe you truly do care for them. Maybe you don’t. But that’s not what you’re here for, is it?

You should know, going in, that my recipe is guaranteed effective. There are no refunds, and once we begin, we must see the process through.

Shall we?

First, you must gather: a string knotted into a circle to symbolize connection; a seashell, ordinary and gray, crumbled at the edges, that maintains emotional significance despite its unloveliness; water from your friend’s tap, the kind you drink when offered even though the flavor is contaminated with local minerals. Combine them in a mason jar and scream into the opening—a real scream; you have to mean it or the spell won’t work. Cap, shake thoroughly, and drink.

It will sting on the way down. That rawness in the throat? That burn in the esophagus, and the sloshing of stomach acids that makes you wonder if your insides are being wrung out like a damp towel? That’s pain. You might have forgotten the sensation; it’s been so long. It won’t replicate the emotion of those around you, but it will most certainly cause your eyes to sting with saltwater, which is, after all, the purpose of this recipe.

Oh, goodness, no, we aren’t finished yet. We’ve just started—primed the pump, so to speak. You’re not here for a mere welling-up, a single drop overflowing and rolling down your perfect cheek. You’re not here simply to prove to a loved one that you are capable of delicate feeling.

Let me guess.

You’ve done something you oughtn’t have..

No—don’t tell me the specifics. I don’t want to know. That’s not why you’re here.

You’re here because you’ve been caught.

You’ve been caught, and you’re out of options. Your relationship, your career, your reputation—all are in jeopardy. You need to show the proper amount of remorse, and my recipe is the only way. I’m your last resort.

I already said I understand. And I’ll remind you that you agreed to see this through to the end.

Gather: an oval hand mirror; an old newspaper printed with ink that stains your fingers black; the chocolates and flowers you bought out of guilt; your signature cologne, smelling of bergamot, leather, smoke, and black peppercorn.

Look at yourself in the mirror.

Really look at yourself.

Your eyes and nose have reddened. You’ve started to sweat. You’ll need a handkerchief soon, but I won’t provide you one. It’s better to let the fluids flow. Your stomach, too, is rebelling, twisting like an angry snake. That’s the potion you drank. You prepared it yourself; you know exactly what you’ve ingested.

You know exactly what you’ve done.

Smash the mirror into a gritty powder. Mix the powder with the chocolate, flowers, and cologne, mashing with your ink-stained fingers until they bleed and create a paste. Smear the paste all over your body. It will cut; do not wash the abrasions. The glass will work its way beneath your skin and rub your nerve endings raw. You will feel flayed, opened, your insides exposed for the world to see.

Now do you understand? Your tears must be real. You have to mean them for the spell to work. And I did guarantee that my recipe would be effective.

It’s much more than physical pain, isn’t it? It’s an invasion, a psychic wound that will never heal. What is done cannot be undone. You will live like this forever, and still, it won’t be enough.

But it’s a start.

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Featured In

Issue 2.3 Paperback

Drink to your past, jump off a train, and suture yourself together from the best parts you can find. You’ll learn about a revolutionary artist’s career and get an inside peek into the daily life of renowned surgeon and recovering human flesh addict, Dr. Baba Yaga.

Play a bizarre new mobile game, seek a boon from The Girl of Rust and Bone, and trust a ghost hunter (or don’t). Chain your father up in the guestroom, write a letter to your mother, and visit the devil at the riverside.

Whatever you do, don’t taste the tea, disregard the whispering lake, and try real hard to keep your picadillo down.

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A woman and her illegal child attempt to make it past Border Enforcement.

A Recipe for Crocodile Tears

Not everyone can cry on command.

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