(My second Cowbird submission.)
I collect smiles like some people collect rare and exotic maps of foreign locations and relics from times gone by. Someone else owned these things once. Once they belonged to men and boys, in their pockets, on their faces. They touched them with their hands, found in them direction, and then left them behind. Now they belong to collectors like me, enshrined in frames and memories.
My collection began with a stranger on the streets of Boston.It was serendipity. He biked past me two times, his shirt sleeves rolled to his elbows, tattoos showing. By the third time, I laughed to see him sailing by, and he laughed, too. That smile disturbed something in me that had been sleeping. But we never spoke, never passed by one another again.
In a haphazard, accidental, piecemeal way, the collection grew in breadth and depth. I was hardly aware of it. Here a friend of a friend. There another stranger, a character on a cinematic screen, a lover.
(Your smile belongs to me now.)
It happens like this: an individual becomes clear against the visual cacophony of the bar, the street, the intimate dinner party. The person’s character – too serious, too carefree, too demanding, too forgiving – doesn’t seem to matter. What does is the transformation of the smile. A truly magnificent smile reshapes the face from whatever into peaks and gullies of laugh lines and crow’s feet. A cartographer’s delight.
But the nature of maps, no matter how carefully printed, is that they fade. Folds fray and tear. Both sunlight and rain stain them beyond repair. So too do these people fade. Their forms, so fine, are worn away by the pressure of my memory’s fingers. But the smiles linger like Cheshire grins, disembodied.
I keep these smiles with me. From time to time, I set them around me to admire. Such beautiful smiles. I loved and love each one fiercely.
I am a connoisseur of smiles; your smile belongs to me.