Smile by Matthew Robins
She said, “Won’t you please come over and show me your smile?”
“Because I love your smile. It makes me feel good.”
“But why? Is it because it’s a wonderful smile or because my smile gives you a good feeling?”
“Your smile, directed at me, gives me a good feeling,” she admitted. “A better feeling than anything else. Your smile, directed at me, lets me know I’m liked, and I need that.”
“Does it matter that I gift you my smile versus you earning my smile?”
“No,” she said. “Your smile is the same whether I coerce it from you as a gift or I’ve earned it by making you genuinely happy. If truth be told, believing it’s a gift is just as good, since we only offer gifts to those we like.”
“So it doesn’t matter if my smile is genuine or feigned?”
“No. So long as it is received. In fact, anything that is gifted is even better than the same thing earned of my own will, labor or sacrifice.”
“Love is always implied within the act of giving, especially with gifts.”
“You can always gift yourself,” I said. “Isn’t gifting yourself an act of love?”
“It’s not the same,” she said.
“Perhaps because you have no love of yourself,” I said. “Leaving love as necessarily external in its source.”
“I don’t care where it comes from,” she said. “Either from within or without, so long as I receive it. For how is it possible to live without being loved?”
“But you know that it’s feigned,” I said. “You know my smiles given to you are always feigned.”
“Yes. But I choose not to know. I choose to believe they are real. So please, don’t remind me of their falsity.”
“You’d rather remain ignorant to the falsity than do anything to make the smile I give you more genuine?”
“Yes,” she said.
“But then there’s no authenticity between us,” I said. “None whatsoever.”
“I don’t care,” she said. “It’s much easier to pretend. Authenticity is too hard.”
“Perhaps for you. But, for me, it’s not. Living in make-believe makes it much harder for me to sleep. It nags at me both night and day. It muddles too many of my thoughts and disturbs too much of my sleep.”
“Strange,” she said. “Make-believe does the opposite for me. Fantasy affords me the most pleasant of all slumbers and allows my days to pass with such ease.”
“Perhaps that’s why you need make-believe from me, so that you can rest. Perhaps you need me to validate your fantasies so that your days and nights pass more easily?”
“Yes,” she said. “So that my conscience may be clear. Clear to believe that I am not so selfish as to be unlovable.”
“But I can’t do it,” I said. “I cannot give you fantasies. For even when I get a few moments of sleep, they’re filled with nightmares when I know things are far different than I accept them to be.”
“But it is so easy. Falsity is so, so easy. And, being so easy, I find it hard to understand why it’s so difficult for you to give me your false smile.”
“Again, it’s the problem of authenticity,” I said.
“You act as though authenticity is a perfect solution or something.”
“Far from perfect,” I said. “It comes with its own set of difficulties. But I liken it to having a problem. If there is a problem, we can choose to ignore it or put forth the effort to try to understand it and devise a plan for minimizing its effects. The latter is more difficult than simply ignoring the problem and dealing with the consequences of what we’ve chosen to ignore. Granted, most often the consequences of our willful ignorances are worse than the consequences from acknowledging and addressing the problem. But the former, in its way, is the easier psychologically, since the consequence of something we’re ignorant of is thereby a matter of chance, not choice.”
She paid no attention.
“If I smile and you accept it as real – knowing all along it’s inauthentic – then you are not living according to what you know is true and real. Likewise, I am living a lie when I offer you a smile that isn’t sincere. And the basis of our relationship founded on the lies and insincerities of smiles is nothing but a complete sham.”
“I don’t care,” she said.
I know,” I said. “And that is the insurmountable problem between us.”
“Well, it’s hard work making another person smile,” she said. “Harder than having them smile at me out of pity or sympathy. I’m not good at making people happy or making them laugh.”
“Of course, it’s hard. But I’m willing to help you earn a smile.”
“So, so hard,” she lamented.
“Nothing good comes easy,” I said.
“But it should be. It should be so easy.”
“One final question. You say you love my smile?”
“Yes,” she said.
“But, do you love making me smile?”
“I love seeing it and feeling it,” she confessed.
“But not the process – the act – of helping create it?”
“I don’t understand the difference. It is your smile. You are the one that creates and maintains it. It is only you.”
“Yet, the genuineness of my smile directed at you is also something created between us. Something created between you and me. See, there is a distinction between the smile and its genuineness. The smile is something given. Its genuineness is something created.”
“I do not put much stock in creation. I prefer to let nature do its thing.”
“Then, again, we hit an impasse. “
“No. To the contrary,” she said. “Since you are the advocate of creation, I hand all the responsibility of creation over to you. That is my gift to you – full control.”
“And full responsibility. “
“Yes. So, you’re welcome,” she said. “Now you have full authority over whatever exists between us.”
“And complete and sole responsibility for its failure.”
“That’s quite a gift,” I said sarcastically.
“I wish I was there now to see your smile,” she said sincerely.