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The Painted Smile

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This unusually cold summer’s day had an unnatural grace about it; it was weather to be treasured, like that of late fall. Had I been in the right frame of mind, I would have cherished it. Instead, I dismissed its glory uncaringly. My thoughts were set on the lake spread out before me which seemed to culminate the distance between Kavan and me. It had been a long time since I had seen a genuine smile–one that illuminated Kavan’s handsome face and spilled over into his eyes. Kavan was my dearest friend, and everything we did together was rhythmic even down to the way our legs swung almost methodically on the edge of the dock. Looking out at the lake and occasionally at his painted smile, I wondered who or what made him want to mask the real thing.

“Kav, do you ever wonder why the water is never completely undisturbed, why there is always a single ripple somewhere across its vast surface that disturbs its calm?”

“I guess it’s kind of like a living being. Everyone, and apparently everything, has a certain aura, one that never washes away and settles into calm.” I let his words sink in. Though he was 15, he had a timeless wisdom. It was noticeable from the first time I met him 10 years ago. At the age of five, his words flowed cerebrally and left my head spinning. He was like any other inquisitive child, and I, as well as everyone who had the pleasure of meeting his acquaintance, knew just how gifted he was. With my four years in tow, and my teddy bear in hand, I was foolish enough to challenge him to a battle of wits only to learn that he is not one to be trifled with.

“I suppose you’re right,” I finally answered, “I rarely see someone wear a fulfilling grin–one deprived of a past.” Even though the statement I made was purposefully ambiguous, it got his attention, as I saw out of the corner of my eye.

“I’ve yet to uncover a reason for confiding in others. Burdening others with my troubles will do nothing but magnify my problems, forcing others to share within my misery.” Kav never complained even when complaining seemed the least he could do. It was painstakingly obvious that something preoccupied him and consequently occupied our last moments together.

“Getting it off your chest always helps, though, doesn’t it?”

“You’re mistaken. The fact that sharing implies that my problems are no longer my own, and rather mine and someone else’s, repels me.” I was borderline furious by his constant reticence and selfishness, and I wanted to give him a piece of my mind.

“I can’t do this anymore.” He took a sigh before continuing, “I’m tired of putting a wall between us. The truth is that I miss you so much it hurts.”

“What do you mean? I’m right here, Kav.” I said almost unsurely.

“But you leave today, and I’m not sure I can take it. Every single day, I go against the same absurdities from everything and everyone, and you’re the only one who understands me. I can’t let you go. Not again.” Any former violence churning within my tightened heart was dispelled then as his soft lips were touched to my forehead, and I let my eyes droop as he pulled away. Acting upon instinct, I laid my head against his shoulder, and he gently laid his against mine. I was determined to prolong the moment, concentrating on his even breathing and staring back at the lake. For a fleeting moment, it seemed as if the ripples upon its surface had vanished. It was still morning, and warmth cut through the cold winds from the sun overhead. With the warmth was a sweeping light that should have exposed potential imperfection in the lake, but my eyes couldn’t find anything. Though I didn’t treasure the weather on that memorable day where I would once again part from my childhood friend, I did treasure that moment in all its surreal perfection.

“You’re so cute.” Even though he was right next to me, the words seemed far away. It was almost like an echo, just without the initial, more solid sound. I murmured something unintelligible and put on a lazy smile. Contrary to repeated compliments, the way he said the word “cute” had a lasting appeal. It put me out of this world.

Kav shifted closer to me, and I closed my eyes for a few seconds, breathing in all the natural scents. The most prominent scent was the sweet aroma of the many flowers beneath us, at the lake’s edge.

“If anything, this moment boasts the true meaning of perfection.” I looked up at him, and his whispered words sent a calming sensation throughout my body. What I saw amplified this sensation for the depth of his smile shocked me. Of my memories of our childhood together, I could only see a ghost of his smile, and my memories were fading. I was given the renewal I had so desperately been wishing for.

With my newfound energy, I boldly interrupted the rhythm his legs had started up again, not quite sure when they stopped, and sent him into the lake, with me coming right behind him with a splash. I may be juggling my feelings for him as the days pass, with me entirely too excited for each of his phone calls, but I don’t need to make sense of him, me, or us. My worries slipped away as my heart became entirely wrapped up in the moment that I saw Kav’s smile. All that mattered to me was his happiness and being a part of it.





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