Shining

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
A story based on my life, and on why I smile at people whenever I see them...

Though I haven't been shot in a grocery hold-up and have no intention of letting it happen! :)

Submitted: May 13, 2008

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Submitted: May 13, 2008

A A A

A A A


I’m an old man now that the years have taken their toll, but I still remember her, even after these fifteen or so years. Every time that girl stepped onto the bus, she smiled at us all, like some little child, and said good afternoon to the bus driver as she fed $2.75 into the fare box. And instead of taking the transfer mutely and walking farther into the bus, stuffing it into her pocket like anyone else would, she would say thank-you to the driver and hold the small slip of punched cardboard like a talisman. Then she would turn towards all of us and grin at us, sharing her joie-de-vivre with a bunch of people who had all but given up. She always carried a book, but I never saw her open it, though I knew from the way she held it that it was filled with wonderful stories. She was a sweet child, a happy optimist still unscarred by the harshness of the world. I saw her picture in the newspaper yesterday, and she still looked the same, still as sweet and cheerful, and of course, that soft smile playing on her lips, like she was laughing at some joke God had whispered to her. “Young Woman, 30, Shot in Grocery Hold-up” says the newspaper, with a slightly grainy black-and-white picture capturing her sunlit smile.


***

I can’t lie to myself. My day has been awful, I’m in a shitty mood and I just want to crawl into bed and sleep. It’s cold out, I forgot to bring a pair of pants to wear so I don’t freeze my legs off, I have to practice my piano even though I’m terrible at it, the cat’s litter box needs to be emptied and I have that essay to write. This has been one long nightmare day, and it’s not done yet. I don’t want to take the bus home, just once, I want to find myself in a warm car with the radio tuned to the station I want and some other smell than the mix of everyone’s B.O. I walk onto the bus, drop my fare in and look at the bus driver, whose name I think is Marc. He looks tired today, and seems sadder than usual. His son has cystic fibrosis, or at least, I think he does, because why else would there always be flyers for CF research on the dash, and why would the little boy in the picture taped onto the steering wheel have tubes up his nose? Must be tough having a sick kid. I grin at him and his face softens just a bit.
I walk towards the back of the bus, smiling at the others, just because hey, their lives probably aren’t rosy either. Jake the crack addict, who somehow scrapes together a bus fare every day, gets on the 139 West, gets off at the P stop and turns around to take the 139 East back, all the while twitching spastically. Soonja, who smells and looks like India, wearing a faded salwar kameez under her battered jacket and occasionally carrying bags of spices and rice, her teething son in tow as he munches determinedly on a samosa. Ira the angry black man, who has a permanent scowl on his face and purposefully growls in a heavy ghetto accent, daring any white trash to talk to him, yet lovingly looking at the colour picture of his little daughter in his wallet. Marie, the 20-something year old University student who is always frantically reading her textbooks, trying to cram in as much studying as she can before she gets to her part-time job waiting tables at a sleazy diner. I know these people, have guessed their back stories through careful observation and I can’t help but smile at them. All of them have their demons, shadows in their eyes, regrets and forgotten passions.
I know some of them think I’m just slumming it, when I could easily take a cab or get my parents to drive me everywhere. But heck, even with my private school girl uniform, I still take the bus, not because I have to, but because I want to. I love seeing these people and thinking that maybe I can make them just a bit happier by smiling at them, or making them laugh. I can only observe what my eyes can see, and they only see my outside as well, but all of us know that there’s something deeper. Me, I look strong, stand tall, always seem happy, smiling at everyone else, but sometimes, on days like today, I’m screaming inside. Screaming because God damn it, I have so much freaking work to do, and a long way to go before I can just lie down and write what I want to, and then sleep.  But I feel I owe it to these people to smile at them. They seem so dejected, so blasé and dulled by the world that a small spark of joy is hardly enough to start a warm smouldering of happiness. I can still try though.
I can try, and I will try, because I remember what it was like to be see pleasure in someone else’s eyes. I remember that day when everything went wrong, where I nearly failed a math test and got an 87 on an English paper, the lowest mark I had ever received in a class that consistently gave me pride in my work. The day where I just crumpled and thought that there was little good left in the world, because thousands of people were dying and there was nothing I could do. The day where I walked onto the bus and sat down, trying to hide my tears, and a little child came up to me and asked me why I was sad. And when I answered, he offered a hug, which I took, and he told me not to be sad because I was really pretty. I smile at the people on the bus because I know how good it is to be offered a piece of child-like delight and naivety. Everyone deserves to get a child’s smile as a gift, without having to give back anything in return. Maybe one day, they’ll return the cheerfulness and smile at someone else.

***

I didn’t read the whole article. I couldn’t, not when I saw that gentle smile I remembered so well. To tell the truth, I have never forgotten it, and it is her love for others that has kept me going for so long.  Even now, as an old man, I sometimes recall the day I finally looked at her. Really looked at her and saw her for who she was; an adult in a child’s body, who had been put down and had cried, but had made the decision to keep smiling. That day, I glimpsed something deeper in her than just an appearance. She was shining from the inside, spreading her smile and its warmth through the bus. I looked at her, and for the first time, I smiled back at her, and told her. “Girl, you have a beautiful smile.” And I felt touched by an angel.


© Copyright 2017 PhantomDancer. All rights reserved.

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