It was the cigarette smoke, I think, that made my eyes water all day long, the smoke that clung to the sweater of the woman sitting beside me in a doctor's waiting room so small and crammed with people that I could not avoid inhaling that lingering smoke, the smoke that penetrated the room as insistently as the inane yammering issuing from the television perched on the wall just over my head, the yammering that made me thankful that I didn't have to watch what I was hearing, the annoying noise as sour as a bad smell.
The smoke, yes--that must be the reason my eyes keep filling at inopportune moments, like when I hear about another valued colleague who is leaving us or when I stand in front of a classroom teaching a story about a young man returning home to visit his dying mother or when I recite that line from Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art" asserting that "The art of losing isn't hard to master," the poem that urges us to "practice losing farther, losing faster," to gracefully accept the losses that pile up inevitably as we age until they penetrate every corner of our lives like an annoying noise or a lingering smell.
What else could be making my eyes water besides that smoke? Sure, we may be struggling with uncertainties (in enrollment, in employment, in my mother's health), but there's no need for tears when we can handle uncertainties in a rational manner by making plans and taking steps and distributing documents and even, heaven help us, participating in focus groups intended to gather information to improve branding. Who could be glum in the presence of focus groups?
So I blame the smoke for filling my eyes and bringing on the sniffles, for making me look at Spring red-eyed through a haze of tissues and nasal spray, because if I couldn't point my finger at the offending cigarette smoke, I'd have to come up with some other likely culprit to bear the blame for everything that threatens to fill my eyes with tears.