Once upon a time there was a woman whose tears did not taste of salt. Of course, having tasted no one else’s tears, she had no idea this was unusual. Being fortunately born, she never had much cause to cry in self-pity, but a sad story, a poignant image or a melancholy tune could make her weep – just like anyone else.
One day, after being fucked well and thoroughly by her lover, he collapsed on top of her in his sated exhaustion and pressed his parted lips to her temple where a single meandering tear was seeking to bury itself in her hair.
“How odd,” her lover said.
“What’s odd?” she murmured.
“There is no salt in your tears.”
“Why is that odd?”
“Well,” the lover whispered, “everyone’s tears are salty.”
At first, the woman didn’t think much of it. But as time went on, the lack of salt in her tears began to bother her more and more. It disturbed her that she wasn’t normal and, suspecting that her lover looked at her differently now, she left him and went in search of some answers.
She embarked on a long journey, travelling the world. At every place that she stopped, she’d ask people about salt and tears and salty tears. They all had very different answers.
“Salt is a preservative,” said one.
“It’s a ward against evil,” said another.
One old man told her that salt was an admirable antiseptic. A swimmer said that salt is what made floating in the sea so pleasurable. A fat woman in a small market town told her that unsalted food was flat and unappetizing. A dedicated gardener informed her salt killed slugs. A hermit in the desert told her that without salt, water would simply run through our systems. Salt was life.
All these ideas were very interesting, but they gave her no answer to her mystery. In the meantime, she did what she could to make her tears salty. She covered her food in salt, soaked everything in soy sauce or fish sauce. She lay in the shallows of the sea for hours, hoping that somehow the salt in the world would make its home in her body.
She tried crying a lot – which made no difference – and not crying at all, reasoning that, if she saved up her tears, they’d be salty when they finally emerged. She took many lovers, both male and female, and supped desperately on their fluids. She would bring her female lovers to orgasm over and over again with her mouth, covering herself and drinking down their briny pleasure. She begged her male lovers to come in every orifice she possessed, hoping that some small portion of their salty ejaculate would insinuate itself into her body and salinate her tears.
After the sex, she’d weep and weep. “Taste them,” she pleaded. “Are they salty yet?”
“No, but,” said some of her lovers. “I love you anyway.”
But that wasn’t enough for her. She didn’t want to be loved, she wanted to be normal, and the fact that they knew she wasn’t made it impossible for her to love them back. Well, you have to love yourself before you can truly love anyone else – isn’t that what they say?
This is what kept her on her journey.
In the deepest, darkest jungles of the Amazon, the woman met a medicine man.
“I have no salt in my tears,” she told him. “What does that mean?”
The strange, befeathered man shook his head gravely. “It’s a wonder you don’t just rise up and blow away on the breeze,” he said. “Salt and the earth are one. If you’ve got no salt, you don’t belong here. Perhaps you are a ghost, trapped in the body of a human. I can perform a ritual if you want. We can send you off to heaven.”
As miserable as she was, and as desperate as she was, the woman simply could not believe she was quite a ghost. For she hungered and thirsted and lusted and laughed and wept just like anyone else.
“I don’t think I’m a ghost.”
The witchdoctor shrugged, sat down on a dead tree and nodded. “Let me think about it a little more.”
She sat with him, beside him, swatting away the mosquitoes. The shaman filled a pipe full of wildly hallucinogenic roots and had a long smoke to help him think more freely on the subject.
Seven hours later, he emerged from his trance and said: “Perhaps your tears are not the problem. Perhaps it’s the taster.”
This, in the woman’s view, was at least a new approach to her dilemma. So again she immersed herself in physical love, taking lover after lover. And when they couldn’t taste the salt in her tears, she did not leave them because she was strange – she left them because they couldn’t taste the salt in her.
One night she met a man who didn’t just want to fuck. He was, he admitted much more interested in her pain than her pleasure.
“But that isn’t love,” she said to him.
“Perhaps…perhaps not, but were all the ones that came before love?” he replied.
She had to admit that it was probably not love, ever. Either it was about her, or about them, but it was always selfish and never about love at all. “Then how is this any different?” she asked.
“This, at least, is honest. I’m not interested in your love, just your pain. And perhaps a little blood.”
It was indeed honest, she thought. What did she have to lose? A few more tears? A little blood? “Alright,” she said. “Just do me a favour and taste my tears and tell me if they’re salty.”
“With pleasure,” he agreed.
And so he beat her and hurt her. When he stopped, her face was awash with weeping. She begged him to taste the tears, but he said he wasn’t finished. He fucked her with such ferocity she could hardly breathe and, when she thought he’d surely had enough, she felt his nails at her back. They dug into her skin and drew long, vicious scratches into her flesh, which only made her impale herself upon his cock all the harder to get away from the pain.
When it was over, her body ached and her back felt like it was on fire. She felt him smooth his palms over the wounds, and she knew they would come away slick with her blood.
“Will you taste me now?” she asked.
He brought his hand to his mouth and tasted. “It’s salty.”
“But, my tears. What about my tears?”
He bent his face to hers and licked her wet cheek, leaving behind a faint ruddy kissmark. Noisily, he sucked his lips and then nodded. “Salty.”
At first she felt a great flood of relief: finally, finally, someone could taste the salt in her tears. But then she considered for a moment. An icy spike of apprehension sank itself in her gut. “How can you tell whether it’s my tears or my blood you’re tasting?”
“It really doesn’t matter. They’re both the same to me.”
His kiss, when it came, tasted exactly like the sea. She wasn’t sure where the salt came from or whether in fact it was hers at all. But somehow it just wasn’t important anymore.