Story by Shery Ma Belle Arrieta
“Wear a smile and have friends; wear a scowl and have wrinkles. What do we live for if not to make the world less difficult for each other?”Johann Kaspar Lavater
Ever since I started commuting to and from work, I discovered that I have been smiling a lot. I smile at the person beside me on the bus. I smile at the person across me on the jeepney. I smile at the security guard in my office building. I smile at the janitor I see mopping the floor in the hallway. I smile at the cashier in the mall.
The smiles are not so much as flirty but rather an impulse I have developed simply because I learned that if I smiled at someone, I get a smile back. I learned it from an old woman I didn’t even know.
I was once seated beside her on my way to work one morning. She had kind eyes and I could tell that it was her first time to visit the city. She kept looking out the window and oooh-ing and aahhh-ing at the tall buildings. She was with her granddaughter who was seated across the aisle.
I was trying to read a book then but I stopped every so often because she kept leaning over my seat. I was about to ask her if she wanted to trade seats when I stopped and just stared at her. I saw wonder in her face. Her eyes were wide and shining, and her mouth was stretched in a wide smile.
She was oblivious to my stare because her eyes were fixed on something that was outside the window. That something was a section of the skyway that was still under construction, I found out when I turned my gaze outside the window. It was her first time to see cars and buses go up the ramp and onto the skyway.
I have been seeing the same buildings, the same roads, the same ramps for a long time that I felt envious that she found something so simple and mundane to smile about.
When I turned to look at her, she was looking at me, the smile gone from her face. I wanted to see her smile again. I was unsure of what to do. Finally, in the breadth of a second, I risked a smile at her. That’s when I saw the sun shine on her wrinkled face. She smiled back at me.
We then spent the rest of the trip talking and smiling at each other.