My Beautiful Smile by Anne Goodwin crease in the grey leather of my bag. I had my iPhone inside, but I didn't think I'd get a signal. Besides, I've moved on from Facebook and Twitter. And those emoticons my mother loves so much make me want to scream. As the train began to slow down for the station, I stood up and shuffled into the aisle. That's when I did the stupid thing: I noticed the woman opposite had a handbag identical to mine. Of course, she noticed my noticing. It was the recognition she'd been after from the moment she sat down. To underline the point, she cocked her Source: stock.xchng
when I came for my assessment, so I didn't have much choice. I took the Bakerloo line: only two stops to Great Portland Street. At first, it was fine. Grey faces turned in on themselves. Ears plugged into iPods or lost in the music of the train. Eyes fixated on newsprint or, more often, on nothing. No one giving a monkey's about anyone else. Until a woman flopped onto the seat opposite at Euston Square. She'd just made it on board before the doors closed. She wriggled into place, itching for some acknowledgement of this wondrous feat. I kept my head down, intent upon a
head, raised her bag and grinned. A lorry driver, seeing another truck approaching, will flash his lights to acknowledge a kindred spirit. But I wasn't in the car and all I had to offer was a blank stare. The clinic was done out in beige, although they'd probably call it oatmeal. But the decor made the prodding and the prying somewhat easier to bear. Once the tests were over, the doctor pronounced his verdict. "We can't give you a smile you can turn on and off. You can't activate a muscle if there isn't an existing nerve. But we can tighten things up around the mouth. You'd still have a fixed expression, but you wouldn't look so glum." It was what I'd expected. Even so, I felt the emptiness inside me grow. He widened his eyes. "If you decide to go ahead, we'll do some mock-ups on the computer so you'll know in advance how it's going to look. There's a degree of choice over how big a smile you end up with." I knew exactly what kind of smile I wanted. I'd been scrawling red crayon over photos of myself since I was four years old. But I'd been around hospitals enough to know how to play the game. "That sounds great." 47
Issue 21 of Gold Dust, twice-yearly magazine of literature and the arts, with £20 best poem award and £20 best prose award, a special featur...