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Smiles

By , ann arbor, MI
I gazed out of the second story building of hell. Oops! I meant school. The words coming out of my algebra teachers’ mouth just slid right through my ears. I knew I should have been paying attention but it’s impossible to pay attention to something you’ve already learned. So, I sat there quietly preoccupying myself with unrealistic dreams ignoring my classmates snickering at my unnaturally long hair. I almost always never really knew or understood what I was really dreaming of. To me it was just incomplete thoughts and memories fading into one another making a blur of vibrant colors. Today was like any other day, the teacher going on about lessons I’ve already learned, girls laughing at my apathetic slouch, and my wandering mind in faraway lands.
“James!” yelled my teacher. I looked up at him ignoring the whispers going around me. “Yes” I replied. “Mr. Moore I’d appreciate it if you…” but he never got to finish because then the door opened and just like his entire class he turned his curious gaze towards his new student. I returned back to my dream state not even bothering to look at our new classmate. Mr. Mather asked her to introduce herself. I heard the sharp intake of all the boys as Arissa spoke. I looked up to meet her gaze because my boy instincts got the better of me.
She had long hair that slid down her back in waves, almost like a waterfall, all the way to her hips. Her coco skin seemed to shine in the fluorescent lights above. Arissa’s voice was quiet but as clear as Chrystal. Her eyes seemed black at first but the more I looked I soon realized they were dark brown and mysterious. As she started telling us about herself I realized I was actually listening not hiding in my dream world. Listened as she told us how she was part Native American and part African American. I listened as Arissa told us how her Native American father had forbidden her to go to public schools. I yearned to comfort her as she told us about her father’s recent death. I found myself wanting to warn Arissa about all the girls who were ready to strike daggers at her back when she turned away from them, I wanted to warn her about the boys who were ready to ambush her and use her broken heart for their own interest. But what I wanted most was to rip her fake smile off her face and replace it with a real smile.
After telling us about herself Mr. Mather gave her the only seat left which was by me. She walked toward her new seat with her shoulders hunched looking down at the ground almost as if she was hiding from the world. When she finally looked up to find her seat I smiled at her as her gaze flickered towards mine. She smiled back and the small trace of a frown under her smile irritated me. I shrugged off the irritated feeling and went back to wandering through my memories.
“Mr. Moore! As I was saying before I’d appreciate it if you’d pay attention instead of hiding behind your girly hair.” I continued to ignore his complains turning my eyes towards the window. Mr. Mather had always had a great dislike of me and had gotten on my case whenever he had the chance, usually every 10 minutes. “Oh man! James you got owned. Mr. Mather put you in your place. You’re going to take that? He just literally like called you a girl.” The whole class laughed in unison at Mr. Mather and Bryan Colts insults combined.
I looked at Bryan Colts and rolled my eyes at him. “I have better things to do than be bothered by worthless comments coming from complete idiots, such as yourself and this poor excuse of a teacher.” I replied. The class went silent turning to look at the ‘idiots’. Mr. Mather’s face was red with rage and Bryan Colt had his mouth slung open. “James, are you sure it’s me you’re talking about?” Mr. Mather asked in a threatening voice. I laughed and said, “Of course it’s you, and by the way you just proved you’re an idiot by asking me that.”
Mr. Mather didn’t say anything for a while and Bryan was still in shock from the first insult. I turned away from all the eyes on me and looked out the window. Outside was beautiful it was spring and that’s always the best season in Michigan. I was looking out the window for about five whole minutes before Mr. Mather came back from shock mode. “I HAVE NEVER IN MY LIFE MET A PERSON AS DISRESPECTFUL AS YOU! GO TO THE OFFICE THIS INSTANCE!” I stood and grabbed my work and walked out the class. I headed toward the main office building. Once the building was in sight I turned and left out the main doors. I headed towards my favorite spot on school grounds instead of the office. Once I got there I lie under my sycamore tree and shut my eyes.
The bell then rang signaling the end of 2nd hour. I stood and headed towards my locker. Arissa was standing next to my locker. As I was unlocking my locker I said, “I guess the Native American is my locker buddy.” She turned towards me and simply replied, “I guess so.” She turned her back to me and went along with her business. “Can I ask you a question?” I inquired. She turned towards me and asked, “Is that your question?” I ignored her joke and asked, “Why do you smile if you’re obviously upset?” She looked at me completely shocked. Then she looked away and didn’t reply. I stared at her willing her to answer. She started to walk away. “Are you going to answer?” Arissa twirled around to face me with a small smile playing at the sides of her mouth and replied “I would have answered but you stole my question for you, so I won’t answer till you answer.” Then she walked away leaving me to face her long black hair, confused.
I walked towards my 3rd hour class in daze trying to understand what she meant. What did she mean by saying I stole her question? Did she think I had a fake smile? Why would she think that? Why was she smiling? Was she laughing at me? Arissa1 had invaded my mind with her taunting smile. I couldn’t escape to my sleep state because her words kept nagging at me. She had put chaos in my peaceful world. What I couldn’t seem to comprehend was why I was letting it bothering me, nothing ever did. I was supposed to be in I don’t care mode all the time but she broke through my barriers. I’d have no peace until my questions were answered.
After the class ended I rushed to my locker hoping to confront her but she had already left to lunch. I headed towards the cafeteria hoping to find her and confront her but she was nowhere in sight. I gave up looking for her and headed outside to my sycamore tree. As I got closer to my favorite spot I spotted Arissa leaning on my tree staring at me.
“So are you going to answer my question this time?” I asked.
She slid down the tree with her back and then gestured for me to sit next to her. I stood there staring at her. What was this sudden change about? Why did she ignore my questions?
“I smile to make others happy. They don’t want to see a frowning face. They ignore the sadness in my eyes but you didn’t. I think I know why though.” She finally replied gesturing for me to sit next to her once more. This time I obliged.
I understood what she meant. People didn’t want to see sadness. They chose to ignore the problems and turn their backs to them. They put on fake smiles to dull the pain, to make others blind to their problems. What they didn’t understand was the smile did nothing; optimisms only worked if you actually try and not by putting a smile on and standing in place.
“What do you mean I think I know why? What about me? I don’t have a fake smile.” I was curious by what she meant about me.
“You don’t. You don’t smile at all. You don’t smile to make people feel better. You just ignore them and make them ignore you so they’ll be blind to your sadness. A similar method to fake smiles.”
I listened as she spoke. I watched her as she used hand motions as she spoke. After she was done talking she turned to me and almost as if she just remembered she asked “Why’d you ask me about my smile?”
I didn’t know how to answer. Even I didn’t know why I asked her. I shrugged and watched a bee flying into a nearby flower. Life was simple but people had to make a big deal out of everything.





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