by Patrick Călinescu
When she had tried to smile back at me, her lips creeping on her face skin stopped her short. Unable to sketch the least outlined lip curvature, she just nodded her incapacity into a final shrug.
I had been looking at her all this time and, mentally, I went through what she had gone through perfectly understanding that this was the end of the line for any other foreseeable smiles of hers. I made her realize I was fully aware of her tender handicap and went no more down the path of further smiling supplements.
She seemed to have appreciated my efforts at rendering her effortless about her smiles. If she couldn’t smile now, perhaps she would be able to smile later on. Then, that’s it. And everything would afterwards settle down smoothly and according to the plan I was conceiving. I knew she had contrived to smile at me ever since she discovered I would thus be very easy on her faulty lips, and unstable face skin, and unissued smiles. I also knew she wasn’t involved in her body’s total lip breakdown simply not to smile back at me. She wanted to, and she even tried to, but she couldn’t do it on either occasion. So, I was good enough and sufficiently polite to understand her and fully grasp the plight she was in; and, accordingly, never touched upon it again.
Presently, all her smiles kept depositing themselves under the thin sheet of lip skin that would arch into no smile at all. I saw her smiles banging tender bodies into each other, under her creeping lips, wholly incapable to get through and come out of their curvature. She plainly made me see that the battle raging beneath those hardly visible sketchy smiles of hers could not take proper smiling shape and, in seeing no smile whatsoever stealing from under their protective lipping coil, I gradually began to stop caring, and minding not being smiled back ever again.
She saw I wasn’t upset at her momentary physical failure. I know she would fully have smiled back at me if she truly could. Guessing her tender thoughts, and correctly interpreting her alleged actions, I kept smiling at her quite benevolently, with no further wish of reciprocation.
I could have moved away, gone my way, and left her where she stood if I hadn’t shown her the full scope of my understanding and tenderness. So, I stayed put and kept on being where I had been all along fearless that she might betray any of my unreciprocated smiles.
She seemed to have fully understood how tender I was being to her, devoid of any reason for being so, and appreciated it all the more by showing me again how intensely her lips were waging war on their one day smiling back at me. I was glad to see she wasn’t taking for granted my wish to remain there. I was even gladder to see, at long last, a tiny smile, so feebly built out of her tender thoughts for me, timidly emerging from her soldered lips, and making war on their sealed curvature. Seeing the intense battle that it was doing, I began raising my level of expectancy by how many smiles I would have smiled upon her tried lips if I had had any left. I nevertheless seemed to have run out of additional smiles, and my smiles seemed already to have taken their part in the promising victory over the sutured lips that that puny smile of hers was now in full conquest of. I thus did not lose heart and kept forcing myself to smile back at her and, after a while, having by smiling trial and error brought my smiles back upon my lips, I increased my effort at rendering her effortlessly smiling back at me.
Interestingly, I seemed to have been quite successful in my attempts at resuscitating the tiny smile that was so in danger of being lip asphyxiated. Her lips were still tightly welded to one another, and the spit (and what not) that soldered them together seemed to have reversed its effect on the little smile, and tenderly cracked them open for it to increase even further apart the minuscule lip rent already so promisingly growing into a full smile let-out.
She was now staying in between smiles: those she once managed to get out of her lip shell, when it wasn’t spit (and what not) sealed, and those of the present time, hard at work under the rigid crust of her lips doing battle to come out to smiling light. I myself was now being stationed in between two things: both limiting my position relative to her lips’ deep within concentration on their arresting curvature. Mine were, consequently, different from each other and apparently bore no similitude with one another. I was thus being stuck between my patience, and tender candor, in resisting going away, and removing myself from her unsmiling sight, and my wilder, less tender impulse of fleeing, into appropriate distance, her unissued smiles.
Consequently, I was presently at a loss for action or, for that matter, inaction. I wasn’t quite sure whether I should act, or inact, upon either of those things that had initially got me stuck before her.
She appeared to have realized my impasse, and my consequential quandary and, for a split moment not longer than any other already split into its own space of time, she faltered, and seemed to have given up and ultimately given in to whatever I so wished I wouldn’t do and consequently refrain from. But she kept her position and yielded nothing so neither did I. I hope she was aware that, in case of yielding anything, she would be more at a loss of whatever yieldable material than I would ever be. So, she concentrated again on the tiny crack her little smile had made right in the fabric of her lip welding and pushed it forth forcefully anew into the upper air, right above her sutured lips, where it would naturally be.
In the meantime, I made a move she hadn’t anticipated when she saw it in full swing. I always kept my distance from her, and always assured her I would not go one step closer until I had seen her tiny smile breaking loose from her soldered lips. I had so far kept my promise. As the waging war on her lips, by her smiles, and on her smiles, by her lips was far from being over, I actually had to. Now, something must have changed everything in our balanced positions relative to each other. I knew her smile was nearer lip escape than at any other previous time, so I didn’t think it necessary anymore to keep myself ulterior. I could finally break free from my previous station, which I seemed to have occupied for too long, and gradually advance, one step at a time, and keep my nearing distance from her as I increasingly burnt its length into more numerous, and often, steps.
She saw me coming closer to her and she appeared not to mind my ever closing in on her at all. She sweetened her eyes into a kind of visual smile, which she could so express, and subdued herself to my approaching being, but never subsided her struggle against those lips of hers that were so impervious to smiles.
Every time she did something about the war being waged just a fraction of rosy carnation beneath her lips’ length, I did something of my own and, apparently, all I did was to come closer to her, and be focused on getting, before long, within smiling distance of her.
We had, despite all shortcomings, reached a vigorous balance of coming together. I did my thing, she did hers, and whatever we did as ours was perfectly balancing our moving, ever changing positions.
Now, we were so close to each other that I could finally say I was within smiling distance of her, and could see how her lips fomented their inner parts, and how they were prevailing in not yet our prevailing. Now, I could plainly make out the true scale of the war being waged under her lips, and the true scope of lip devastation, and how it trembled under the amounting pressure of smiles from within, and how it was in real danger of collapsing inwards, and crumbling down in the shattered interior of her rigid lips. Now, I was finally able to see all this and realize how hard she’d been fighting, and how much harder she would still be fighting for her smiles, in their immeasurable tens, and hundreds, and thousands, to break free for good, and for ever leave their rigid lips behind.
For the moment, though, until all this could be accomplished, I had to maintain my new position, so hard by her, and yield to my former distance only the comfort of perspective. I did need a good horizon, however near me, beyond which my vision would sharpen into crystal clear images of her lips, and of its emerging smile hopefully followed by other lip deep emerging ones. Without it, my considerable advances on her way would be just a sad retrospective of my impending failure.
I thus regulated well the distance I should be from her and fixed myself there. I had a horizon of lip inspection, and had but recently acquired a very comfortable perspective of smile observation. I was well equipped and, in the process, I had quite successfully dispensed myself from any unwanted failing retrospective. I knew that even the slightest change in my position relative to hers would consequently wreak havoc on my achievements and inadvertently bring about the only perspective I could always do without: the perspective of the failing retrospective. This I feared the most, and out of this came the best horizon I could ever dream of for my lip inspection and smile observation.
Still, I stood remote and yet at a distance which was too beyond the comfort of any working horizon. Within smiling distance as I may as well have just come of her, it was a too vastly distant smile to arch into an efficient smile for the one still doing battle under her sutured lips yet creeping upon her face skin in the dress of an improper smile. And yet, I was still calm and patient and tenderly polite, and still confident in our joint prevailing in their not prevailing at all.
I know I could have been otherwise, but I had no reason I should do but what I had been doing for already so long. I must have been thinking I was either mad to hold my fixed position or incredibly impervious to getting bored of having stuck where I had stuck, but, truly, it was neither of it as it could only be my unending love for smiles: in particular, for those little, temporarily arrested, smiles like the one to whose smiling distance I had long ago attached myself.
So, what I must have been thinking proved to be neither good nor bad. What I must have been thinking, while contemplating the likely emergence of smiles from beneath a devastated lip surface, was in its own right the very thing that both made me stay put and kept me going, which just may, in one odd way, be altogether the same. What is true of my affirmation is that I remained unchanged and unmoved by the slowness of smile emergence or by its probably not prevailing in their not prevailing at all. And the same held of her, the same true affirmation of original intentions: she continued the smile struggle she had for so long been engaged in, and she understood where I was, too. To be truer to my current position relative to hers, I was just about to talk to her, and see whether this new stratagem I literally minutes ago thought of, while in the midst of explaining what I must have thought before, would pay off and free that still feeble smile from her yet tightly soldered lips, when it at long last did truly happen.
So, I was fully ready to talk to her and simultaneously monitor the ongoing battle slowly fracturing her sealed lips, and I did just that without a moment’s hesitation. After all, I was very curious whether my new scheme would work out and ultimately prevail in not letting them prevail at all. What I actually wanted to see it done was, perhaps, now’s miracle. By talking to her, I was forcing her to talk back to me. By replying, her lips would force themselves to open to some degree to let her initial smile loose, and free from their sealing force, and out in the upper air, where it could finally hover them in no danger of being crept under ever again. So, her face skin would get less burdened by her smiles and allow its lip creeping slip upon it more easily. By talking back to me, she would both smile back at me and make her lip creeping slip into following smiles. Circle complete: the smile would get liberated from the nether pressure of her lips thus releasing them from the pressure of their creeping sluggishly on her face skin.
I began talking to her; I began executing my plan in earnest.
I was modest at the beginning, and not much of an orator, either. I faltered, and stammered, and words began foundering on the bottom of my own lips, which thus ran the risk of getting in their turn soldered beneath them for good. Luckily, my lips didn’t have to creep on the surface of my face skin like a winding double-bodied kind of rosy serpent as my face skin was naturally softened by countless smiles, which made it slippery enough never to be forced to seal itself above other emergent smiles. I was thus being able to talk whatever I could think of.
Within smiling distance of her, I began bombarding her striving smiles with my countless words. I was adamant to shock her lips into cracking, in between, wide open. I was fully prepared to feed into her still sutured lips all the lies I was yet to think of.
She would have hied me back but for the immense pressure amounting under her still resisting lips.
My name is… didn’t I tell my name already?
Cross lip jerks said I had.
Lip convulsions acquiesced.
I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news for you.
Lips trembled without breaking asunder.
Yes, sorry for that.
I don’t know how to say it to you in as tender a way as possible.
Lips switched each other’s bodies into reversed curvature.
I’ll try to be as tender as personally possible…
… but no promise.
Lips sank into her face skin.
You’re a very special girl…
Lips mingled with each other.
… but under such conditions…
Lips foundered beneath themselves.
… I really don’t know…
Lips zigzagged diagonally.
… If I can…
Lips shrank from each other.
… you know…
… your boy-friend.
However, I could keep on being your boy-friend…
… if you could just smile back at me…
Smiles, smiles, smiles.
… when I so tenderly smile at you.
Her lips finally ripped themselves wide open in a tumultuous shower of smiles. The spitting (and what not) bond that had soldered them together was finally smiled upon from high above their former suture points. I was, indeed, most successful in my not allowing it prevail in their prevailing at all. She finally smiled back at me, and so I just kept on smiling at her. I was at long last free to tender on the smiles.