We've just stepped outside Fiesta, an ethnic-foods supermarket in Houston, when my wife starts bawling.

"Jessica?" I ask. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," she replies between heaves.

"Then why are you crying?"

"I'm not," she says.

I stand there, uncomprehending. With my head at an angle like a befuddled dog and my eyebrows knitted like a caveman's, I strike the pose of the vexed husband.

"I know," she says. "It's silly."

As we stand on the sidewalk in front of the store, the Texas sun is fierce. But it is no match for the accusatory glare of some women shoppers striding past us. "What did you do to her?" their expressions say. Others register compassion, the tender look in their eyes saying, "Poor girl, having to be with such a horrible brute." Men tend to just steal a glance, then turn away and look straight ahead, as if to say, "Man, dude. Bummer."

I consider making a little joke: "Price of lettuce can bring a person to tears, huh?" But the caveman in me counsels against it. "What are you," it says, "freak­in' nuts?" I try the caring-mate approach. "What's the matter, hon?" I say, hoping I sound caring enough.

She waves, as if swatting flies.

This, of course, is the international language of wives for "You know."

I throw up my hands, the international language of husbands for "I have no clue."

I try walking toward the parking lot. If she won't stop crying, at least I can get her off the sidewalk and into the car and get myself out of the withering glare of public scrutiny. But she is a planted flag in the soil of her despair. She ain't goin' nowhere.

I gently take her arm.

She yanks her arm back.