I finish out my day, do a final count at my station, get the supervisor's signature, and head out.
As soon as I walk through the turnstile, the glasses are on, the headphones are up and running, I tap the familiar app on my phone, and I am happy!
The world feels my happiness and is happy with me.
Her twinkling smile is everywhere, the slight crinkles around the eyes are alluring, not yet crows feet.
I'm walking on air as I run a few last-minute errands before heading home.
We exchange pleasantries as she prepares the rolls of spicy tuna.
Her smile invigorates me.
At the makeup counter her eyes meet mine and she knows instantly what I need, and helps put up my hair into a low-price version of the season's fashion.
She smiles the perfect smiles as she sells me the two bottles of Pinko House Cider.
She smiles and winks at me as I file onto the water taxi.
A sea of her smiles surrounds me and I am giddy.
"Someone's happy to go home," she observes.
She stands next to me, a familiar smile, but taller than me by about a head.
I nod and break into a grin, "Date night tonight!"
She nods approvingly and we both go back to staring at the sunset-colored city outside.
I see a dozen more of her on the short walk from the ferry terminal to our apartment, smile to most, wave at some.
I get back blank stares, confused smiles, and a few scowls, but I ignore those.
She smiles at me sweetly in the lobby, teases me a bit as she passes along a package.
I beam and stuff the small box into my jacket.
The elevator is slow and I have time to play around with the package, but I don't, just wait impatiently for it to get get to the 92nd floor.
Home sweet home.
I tap the door sensor a few times and eventually it recognizes my chip.
"When are you going to get this door fixed?" I ask softly under my breath, too soft for anyone to hear.
But of course I'm still terrified.
I start to walk, then remember the glasses and chide myself.
I take a step back, yank the glasses off with a shaking hand and blink at the too-bright reality, and stuff them in my jacket.
"I've got dinner!" I call out in my cheeriest voice.
"'bout time," comes a growled response from the living room.
Two more voices join in with mumbled greetings or something.
I move toward the voices.
Three different unsmiling faces look up at me and their features screw up as one.
"I hate Pinko!"
"What's that weird shit on your head?
"Look at her, she's about to cry!"
I brush it all away, make my usual apologies, drop off the tuna and the cider on the low table that we use for meals, and excuse myself to the bathroom.
Despite the protests, I hear the food being quickly opened and an argument starts about who gets the end-pieces.
The voices go down to a dull roar as the bathroom door closes.
I sigh, lean back against the door, and fish the package out of my jacket.
I open it and go through multiple layers of green plastic before I get to the thin black plastic shell.
I open the shell and put it down on the side of the sink, then look up into the mirror for the first time.
The glasses are off, so of course I know what to expect, but what I see still hits like a hammer.
Her beautiful smile is gone and all I see are creases and saggy skin and discoloration that comes with time in the city.
Her face looks out at me, as it did when the glasses rendered it on top of every stranger's face, but this one is not as dazzling, this face is bland and boring and old.
When did I become so old?
My thoughts come crashing and the face in the mirror, her face, contorts and begins to weep.
I put a hand over my mouth and stifle the screams.
After about a minute of heavy breathing and staring at a spot on the wall, my tears are gone.
One by one, I take the clear bits of plastic out of the black plastic shell, and slide them unto my eyes.
The contacts activate when both are in place and my phone beeps to notify me of a successful connection.
I blink a few times, tap a familiar app on my phone...
And she smiles back at me from the mirror!
These cost me nearly two months salary, squirreled away over almost a year, but they are finally here!
I walk out of the bathroom and come back to the living room.
Three scowling versions of her face look up at me.
I tap a button on my phone, discreetly, and the frowns turn into smiles.
The bigger one shoves a plate in my direction and grumbles something.
The permanent earbuds cancel out the sound of grumbling and substitute my own voice:
You're the best wife and mother anyone could hope for.
We've saved you the best pieces!"
She's back, and the world is happy once again.
One thought on “Faces”
I like the ambiguity around who exactly the smiles belong to, however it feels to me like the ambiguity is kind of half resolved by the end. I’d like it to either resolve with a bit more definition, as in, I’m not certain if this is a younger, smiling version of Jessica or someone else. I’m not even certain of the gender of the first person narrator, or… It might be even cooler at the end to hint at possibilities I might not have considered.