There once was a man who seemed very happy. The townsfolk knew him as a reliable and fun fellow if somewhat average and plain. There was not much remarkable about him but he was a good man and he worked hard, they all agreed on that. Friendly and charitable there were few he was on less than friendly grounds with.
But when he was alone in his own house things were different. He wasn’t always smiling or nice. Not that he was mean, but he didn’t seem nearly as happy as he did when he went in to town. And as he would get progressively more lonely, or angry, or anything other than happy or cheerful he would go into the closet where guests stored their coats when they came to visit. In the closet, he pushed the old coats to one side and on the floor there sat a bunch of dusty boxes and sliding them aside he slipped his finger behind the grimy trim and retrieved a shiny key. With this key in his left clammy palm he went around the back of the house to the old root cellar and unlocking it descended into the darkness that it held.
Sliding his hand along the wall with years of practice of walking the dark passage he stopped and reached without seeing for the string that hung from the light. Click. It always took a bit for the old bulbs to warm up, shining enough light on the room. In in the dark cellar there were rows and rows of old shelves on which were filled with all manner of mason jars and glass bottles. And at the other end of the room there was a big armchair with an old side table in arms reach and on the other side a covered crate.
Walking past the jars he without looking at them he knew that they appeared empty, some jars so coated in dust that they couldn’t be seen into, some appearing quite clean and new and every varying age in between. Though they appeared empty, walking through the shelves one had the sense that they were packed full, something in the room seemed pressing, like walking into a hoarders home.
Upon reaching the armchair he would sit down, heavy, as though weighed down by some great burden. Reaching to his left he lifted the crate open just enough to pull out a jar and he unscrewed the lid and set it on the table to his right. Then something extremely strange happened. He started to sob into the jar. Carefully he caught every tear. He knew to let the emotions take their course. The sobbing turned to bawling, which turned to yelling and screaming. The anger subsided, pushed aside by whimpers and panic set in. All the while he was very careful to catch each tear, every shout, all the fears and heartbeats.
And then it was over, as sudden as it began. He held the jar carefully, as though it were brimming full with an unseen fluid, and reached over for the lid. With the cap screwed on tightly he went to the empty part of the shelf, where the jars had the least dust and placed it neatly in a row with the rest of them. And as he exited the room he pulled the cord attached to the light and once again plunged the room into darkness and secrecy.
When he had latched the cellar door shut, clicked the lock home and hidden the key back behind the trim he released a breath of relief. And then someone came through the door, his beautiful wife, and once again he pasted the smile on that felt more comfortable to him than that dreaded room in the basement.