I have a memory of being a wobbly little girl
and tracing the curve of a smile
on the face of someone I loved.
I don’t know whose face
whose smile
or if it even happened.
But I see it clearly in my mind
upturned mouth, wrinkly crinkly eyes
someone smiling at me saying,
“This is how people who see
know that I am happy. I’m happy because of you.
I’m smiling because you’re here.”
So I learned to emulate that upslanted mouth
the open face of a person happy for the presence of another
even though I’ve never seen it with my eyes.
I know a smile by a voice
maybe giddy around the edges
always warm throughout
I know a smile by a body
relaxed and loose limbed
anticipating laughter.
I know a smile by a sigh
full-bodied or muffled behind a beloved hand
I guess my smiles are less open now
less free for the taking
I don’t smile just because some man on the street says I should
and especially if he says I’ll look prettier.
I fake-smile at people
who want to pet my dog
when I’m in a hurry.
I half-smile when someone holds the door
or steps out of my way.
I can always tell
when my eyes don’t crinkle
that it isn’t real.
For most pictures, I hope someone will tell a joke
just before the flash
so that I’ll be preserved happy.
For some pictures, I’m already smiling
before I even have time to worry.
I can smile without sight
Not only because someone showed me how
but also because life has kept me practicing.
Those moments when my face opens like an outstretched hand
inviting joy
sharing mirth
loving you
Those are the happiest moments I’m alive.

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