"His Smile” - Fall 2007
I remember his smile the most.
Shining and brilliant, it never failed to inspire one of my own. His eyes would crinkle up at the edges and his entire face would light up like his joy was a heat coming from the inside. It was warm and intense, cool and easy, all at once.
That’s what got me in the very beginning. Every part of his face, his eyes almost more than his mouth, took part in his smile. It was a miraculous thing, and he wasn’t limited to just one.
Even now, I can pinpoint each of his smiles. I can tell you everything about them: what they looked like, how they felt, who he wore them for and when…
He had his fake smile, the one he put on with people he wasn’t comfortable with, or in situations he wished he wasn’t in. This smile didn’t reach his eyes. It was automatic, an immediate wall of defense. He wore it in public and it wasn’t until we were alone that he would let me coax it off of his face.
He had his sincere, completely ecstatic smile. This smile would burst into life without pretense or effort. A winning football game, a small kiss, or even just finding a new favorite song would elicit this smile. He could wear it for hours, and even when the intensity faded, the sweet feel of it hung in the air, leaving us both relaxed and happy.
He had his laughing-so-hard-I-can’t-breathe smile. His eyes would squeeze shut and he would clutch his stomach with his rough brown hands, shaking all over. The energy from it would buzz and giggle through me until I couldn’t catch my breath either. No matter what I was doing, there was a part of me continuously trying to find this smile.
He had his I’m-trying-not-to-be-angry smile. This was the smile I would see when we got lost because I wasn’t paying attention to the road, or when I reorganized his room without asking. This smile looked almost painful, and made his cheeks tight and frozen. It also made me laugh, which only kept it there longer.
He had his I-love-you-and-only-you smile. His eyes would soften and all the lines would smooth from his forehead. This smile could stop time, and often did. He would come so close that all I could see were the corners of his upturned mouth. But, I wasn’t looking for his smile then, not really. Locked into his gaze and the thoughts behind it, I lost myself in a world that only existed when he looked at me that way.
He had thousands of smiles, countless and ageless. But of all his smiles, there is one that stands out above the rest. It's the smile that I will remember the most, the one that is ingrained behind my eyelids. This smile I saw once and never again: it was the one he wore when we stopped existing. When he knocked on my door that night, he was already wearing it. It was a quivering smile, a wet and uneven smile, a smile that broke apart everything I thought I knew. It stripped the air from the room, pulled the life from within me, left me curled on the floor in a pain I didn't understand. He left me there and took his smile with him.
Now all of my memories of him, good or bad, are tainted with these smiles. Some of them have faded, others have haunted, and still others have left scars where love used to be. Though time has lessened their affect on me, I know they're affecting someone else... Someone new and different and beautiful in ways I never was. They have his smiles now, and I have only shadows.
That's it, and all it should be.
Vestiges of his memory are all that I want now; They're all I need to keep the parts of life I lived with him, the necessary parts I must carry.
So, I remember his smile the most, though it no longer remembers me.