my face and trudge off toward the office.
“I have noticed that you smile, even
when you are obviously not happy. You are
smiling now actually.” I reach up, douching
the corners of my mouth. I hadn’t realized that
I am smiling again. I don’t feel like it, but I
can’t seem to stop. “Do you do this often?”
“Yes.” I sigh in grim acceptance.
“People expect that of me. I’m the moral
support of the office. Even when people are
having the worst day on record, they always
say that they feel better for a couple minutes
when I’m around. How can I take that away
“So you sacrifice your true emotions so
that other people will be happy? I don’t think
that’s very fair.”
“You’re probably right, but I like it
when people feel better. I feel a little better,
“You’ve been seeing me for a while
now. I wish you wouldn’t try to lie to me.
Why do you really do it?” He raises his
eyebrow at me. I hate it when he does that. I
can’t help but tell him everything.
“I smile because people don’t hang
around people who are depressed all the time.
What do I really have to smile about? I live in
an empty room, the one person that I have ever
had real emotion to can’t return them, and I
don’t have one friend who knows to talk to
about it. I can’t be my real self around people.
I even use my middle name with these people.
I feel like I’m leading a double life with them.”
“I noticed that you used a different
name on the registration than what you call
yourself. Tell me about that. Why do you feel
like you need to use that name?”
“Because that name is everything that
I’m not. That name is confident, happy, and
fun. People like to see that name in the hall.
People like to be around that name. That name
gets asked to go places. That name actually
enjoys the life that it has, I enjoy the life that
name has. I’m nothing like that name, my life
sucks compared to that name.
I grew up in a rural part of the country.
I didn’t fit in. Everything that others were
doing just didn’t interest me. I spent my nights
at home, wondering where I went wrong. I
remember being awake after everyone else in
the house had went to sleep crying because of
the loneliness. Then one night, I decided that
I was tired of not fitting in. I decided that I
wouldn’t cry anymore. The next day was
when that name took over. Almost instantly, I
was having fun, being invited to places and
people were interested in my life, too. When I
moved away, I just kept being the name. No
sense messing with something that works.”
“When was the last time you let you be
“I don’t remember.”
“Try to let yourself come out here, it
will be alright.”
“I don’t remember how.”
“Try anyway.” I sit back in my chair,
unsure about how to proceed. My once empty
head is now filled with voices, all screaming in
objection. A chorus of doubt to forestall my
transformation. Images of an empty
apartment, the feeling of the cold morning
floor, and the echo of deafening all silence run
through my mind at bullet speed. I see myself
in the mirror, old and wrinkled. Then, from
the maelstrom comes a hand, reaching to pull
my fragmented mind through the chaos. It’s
his hand. I feel his smile, warm and radiant. It
dispels the darkness from around me. I feel
I feel the first drops fall on my hand. I
look to the ceiling for a leak, and then realize
that it is me that is leaking. My hand reaches
cautiously for my face, scared of my
discovery. They are there for the first time in
years, tears, real tears. They accelerate.
■ : ^