Katie lost her tears in kindergarten when the teacher held a mirror to her splotchy face and said, "You're really ugly when you cry. Did you know that?"
She had not known it, and learning that people cared more about her appearance than her feelings came as something of a surprise. It shocked her into silence, a beautiful, terrible quiet, for more than a decade. All that time, she smiled sweetly at inquiries, only saying, "I'm fine," with a very neutral, and surely lovely, face.
She found her tears in the back yard one sultry summer night. She was fifteen and her mother was drunk again, staggering and falling as Katie tried to coax her back inside. They collapsed in a heap on the back stoop, Katie unable to bear her mother's weight anymore.
"You know, I just wanted to be happy," her mother said to the sliver of moon dangling in the sky.
Katie looked up and there they were, her tears scattered across the heavens. They fell into her eyes and watered the ground until she was sure they would drown her. "Me too, mommy," she replied.
The next morning was full of coffee and regrets, long blank stares and subdued sniffles. Katie found her tears again, but carefully guarded them. There was something precious in those little jewels, something she was not ready to share.
Half a lifetime passed before her treasure was revealed, transformed from sparkling, salty drops to prose alive with color. "Such beauty!" people marveled. "Such emotion!" they sighed. And there was Katie, tears in her eyes and a smile on her lips.
When asked, "What is your inspiration?" Katie beams and says, "I just want to be happy."