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He was an actor. He knew how to smile properly. He defined “a proper smile” as a smile that could erase suspicion from anyone talking to him and cover up anything that he was feeling. He knew how he had to raise the corners of his mouth a little bit so that the smile came out real enough. He knew how he must squint his eyes a little bit — but not too much, or it would seem overly dramatic — so that he looked happy. He even figured out a substitutional way of pinching his fingers inside his pocket to resist the urge of biting his lips. He was a perfect actor with a perfect smile.

He started learning how to smile properly since the age of five. That day he walked to kindergarten wearing an abnormally anguished countenance fueled by the pain of three deep whip slashes on his back. The teacher noticed that and called the police. Domestic abuse they said. After his parents managed to wield away the police officers, he was rewarded with two extra slashes that cut in deeper than the previous three combined. The day after that he struggled to look optimistic and joyful like the kids around him, and it finally was able to fool the teachers.

People asked him how he was able to always smile. The answer was that it could help him forget things, even though just temporarily. He could forget every fist, every whip, every beer bottle he suffered through as a kid. Sometimes he could even manage to fade away the vivid, horrid memories on that violently stormy night of how his dad choked the last bit of life out of his mom. Or that night when he was still seven and his dad got so drunk and angry that his dad locked him out of the house, for a whole night, and that night was when every monster inside every bush and tree came to life and gigantic distorted shadows loomed over him and the moonlight was blocked by thick dark layers of clouds.

Again, he smiled. He didn’t want to think about these things. He heard that there was a place where there would be no suffering, and every once wounded soul would be taken great care of for eternity. While everyone else dreamed to go to famous
universities or professional sports leagues, that place stood out as his dream destination. Finally, after years of waiting, he was finally old enough. The grandest act that he had to put on, the time to prove that he was truly the best actor with the best smile.

He walked to that door he had located years ago. He wore a borrowed suit and tie from one of his friends, and an expensive watch from another. He carried a black suitcase in his hand. This was the performance that he had rehearsed for a long time. For years. He took out his wallet at the counter when the store owner asked him for his license. He apologized in that deep voice he faked, said that he forgot it at home, glanced at his watch quickly, and smiled perfectly, explaining he had a really important meeting afterwards and he was in a rush. The store owner believed his act.

That night, he walked home, and carefully unboxed what he had purchased. He raised it to his temple. Salvation.

That night, the world lost a great actor; Heaven gained a perfect smile. A true smile.

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