a vignette by anonymous, class of 2023

Smiling is a privilege. There are some who can wake up in the winter with short days and still be smiling when the orange sun sets, hiding itself away from the constant disruptive buzzing that hums on the ground.  Even there, there was a smile that was seen from miles away. 

The room was gray with dimmed lights. It smelled of bright blue detergent, but the teeth still shined bright with dimpled cheeks. They were dressed in all black but her eyes still lit up like streetlights on a deserted highway. That room felt like a loud silence, a large gray elephant with dirt on its back, crashing its way through until a small laugh erupted and filled the room with glee, pushing the door open and letting the calm elephant out. 

I wish I could smile like she could, like the way parents do when their kids say their first words. The kind that makes others want to mirror the action. A smile that took the word “fake” and stomped on it repeatedly until it was unrecognizable. That took the word “true” and raised it to the sun so it could glow a metallic gold. Maya, who was always running, ran faster than anyone I knew. Who was tall and pretty with blonde hair and big blue eyes. Maya, who was always eating grapes. She told us she loved them because of the way the small spheres unexpectedly burst in her mouth, filling it with a rough, sweet flavor. She hoped to burst like that, the juice flying, strong and with purpose until it hit the ground with a splash, drying up slowing under the December sun. 

Maya, with her award-winning smile, the one I wished I could have, sang a song for me that day. It was shy and smooth yet behind that shyness lay a certain power that was begging to be supported. Eventually, that power was supported but cut down too soon. Cut down so quick but no one could say it wasn’t expected; it was a blazing hot fire of dry burning tears, it was a song that rang through ears until they dripped red. A mother at her own kid’s funeral, a smile begging to come out. Now a wish lies still in time never to be fulfilled: how I wish I could tell her how much I loved her smile.