Once upon a time, there was a friend of mine. Well, she is alive, so it feels kind of odd to use ‘was’ while referring to her. It’s just how stories like these go. Infact it’s how any story goes. Hers started when she met me. I’m not saying she was trudging along in her life without any purpose whatsoever, before me. The truth is I can only tell her piece since I have known her. Before that, she might’ve been a saint or a serial killer. Personally, I’m rooting for the latter. I would like a partner in crime.
The first time I met her was through a mutual friend of ours. She came to roam around with the lot of us through the small hilly town that we lived in. You could easily spot her in a crowd of five or even five million due to her distinctive laugh and nonchalant attitude. She didn’t -and continues not to- care what anybody thought about her and at the same time cared for everybody around her.
Her high-pitched yet tinkling laugh came reverberating every time someone cracked a joke. Or even shifted his elbow a little, for that matter. She was clumsy, and she was funny. She was coolheaded, yet aggressive as a lion. But even with her clumsiness and sudden periods of seriousness, she was and continues to be as elegant as they come. I don’t say that because I’m scared. It’s just that I don’t want to die.
Why may you ask though, am I telling you about her?
Well firstly I’m the writer, and you’re the reader; so deal with it.
Secondly, in my opinion, she’s the most interesting person you’ll meet in life. Not because she’s the oldest child, you’ll ever encounter. Not even because she has the loudest and most heartfelt cackle, you’ll ever lay your ears to. But because she presents a personality so dual you can’t help but get stricken between your own two selves. The child and the adult. You can look inside yourself and find a child just like she is. Or more accurately the show she puts on for everybody around her. The mature person, unlike anybody else, comes out between the short or long bursts of childish nature.
Us normal folks are used to burying the child within us deep into the cockles of our heart. She, on the other hand, has hidden the grown-up inside her somewhere besides the spleen. With some people we are mature, and with a handful that we trust, we are open and yes, childish. She’s just herself with everyone. Perhaps we can learn from her cavalier approach to life, or maybe learn from her mistakes. But one thing is for sure. We can’t ignore her.
Another thing you can’t ignore is that she never smiles. You might find it hard to believe, or even strange that a girl who laughs so much, so frequently and with an open heart doesn’t smile that often. I might be the first or one in a long line of wannabe philosophers to theorize that there is a large difference between laughing and smiling. You can fake a laugh, you can’t fake a smile. Even if you want to. Even if you want to cop a smile with a potential suitor to acknowledge his endless efforts to woo you, all you’ll come up with is a weak and pitiful smile. The moments that we so dearly repeat in front of everyone but don’t really appreciate are the ones that bring out the best in us. The first kiss, a careless dance in the rain, or the first dinner with family after a long course of hostel food. These are the moments that exhume the real smile out of us.
I’m not saying her case is the same. But the smile that defines all of us, one that tells us who we really are, is the one I’m yet to see on her lips. It’s as if with the laugh she is trying to cover up something; trying to distract herself from what she has buried deep within. When I looked at her laugh closely, I realized it is inward not outward. She doesn’t use the laugh to get her feelings out but repress them further. The laugh is only on the surface. There’s so much about her that her subjects don’t notice; believing only the crust is the reality when it couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Actually she is everything that you see and more. Beneath the crust, there is a Mantle of quirkiness and wits to the extent that I’m sure she would as easily stump Einstein as she stumps us. Further down is the Core. A constantly moving core of happiness, sorrows, bad and good experiences alike, and the true personality that she hides from everybody else. With every passing year, she erects another wall around this Core; pushing the crust further and further out. The result? Perhaps she herself has forgotten how she really is or she doesn’t even want to remember. Whatever may be the case, I believe she has buried deep her real self just like we all have.
Remember your childhood? The time when you didn’t know what the society or its restrictions were. The time when one day you wanted to be a pilot and the next day a wrestler like Undertaker. Every one of us has had a child within who not only dared but burst out to dream, put his hand on everything he wanted to own without fear, and experienced everything without remorse. That child, every one of us, has concealed inside us, in hopes that no one will ever hurt him again. We remember him with twinkling eyes as someone far off and far back in time, not realizing he is just inside us waiting to be set free, just like the laugh that sets us free from the exertions of our life. Or even the sweet, untimely, and unforced smile that we don’t even realize is on our face. The smile that melts away every tension, every shortcoming of our life, and gives a short but unforgettable shine of that perfect life we roam around carrying inside ourselves.
This friend of mine is a force to be reckoned with. She is normal, and she is not. She is happy, and she is not. She is everything you’re not, or even me.
She never shied away from a good laugh. Infact when she chuckled with the tinkling of her voice giving a background music to the symphony of her life, the silence of those around her could be heard clearly. Every time she did, she laughed with all her heart and more. But she never smiled.
She laughed but never smiled. And this is her story.