An open letter to punks who don’t smile back at me

It happens like music. I am bopping along, listening to ma jamz, heading to Clem. I spot a fellow young person walking towards me. Ah, glorious youth! What a bond we share, the two of us. I lower the volume on my jams and, in anticipation of our meeting, I whip out my Burt’s Bees medicated lip balm. The cool wax soothes my tortured soul. My lips are glossed and quiver in trepidation — what kind of smile should I do?

I could do a mischievous smile. “What, me? No! Who, me? Oh stop!” I laugh to myself, “Oh what a devil I am! I am so bad!” Or better yet, a sweet smile. “Lil’ ol’ me? Oh stop!” Or even better, I could stick out my tongue! What better way to form a human connection with a little bit of tongue? How playful of me! Woop! There’s my tongue! Let’s be best friends!

I decide on tongue. I am ready. My lips are medicated. My music is low volume. I spot my fellow youth almost in direct eyesight. He is a stylish young youth, dressed smartly in salmon pants and Vineyard Vines, a University classic. He’s on his phone, but I know he’s going to smile back. He’s getting closer now. I can hear the soft pitter-patter of his Sperry boatshoes. He looks away from his phone and looks directly at me. Our eyes touch. My mouth widens and I stick my tongue out, and I smile. I smile my freaking heart out. I feel like Marilyn Monroe, like Uma Thurman, like Mr. Bean! I close my eyes and feel the glory of our connection. This, this is life. I am living! I am feeling! My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.

I can see our future. White picket fence. A University flag on our lawn. Thomas (his name is Thomas, I’m sure) is mowing the grass, but poor thing, can’t start the motor. How cute! He is so delightfully inept. Jeffy, our two week-old Siberian Husky puppy, romps in the grass. Sinatra is playing. “Regrets … I’ve had a few … but I did it … my waaaaaay.” I come to the realization: I did, I did do it my way. I am blissfully, blissfully happy.

I open my eyes. “Thomas? Thomas?” I whip around. The sidewalk is empty. My heart falls. He’s gone? He’s gone. I look down and see my tongue still hanging out. I was swindled. I was punked. I feel like a freaking fool with my freaking tongue sticking out like a freaking dog. This punk-ass kid thinks he can play me? Me? Well of course he can. This is America. Anybody can play anybody.

I don’t smile with my tongue anymore. I threw away my Burt’s Bee medicated lip balm. My lips are so chapped. The only thing that medicates them now is my tears. My salty, salty tears. And my jams? Never. Listened. To. It. Again. I roam the sidewalks around clem, looking for a smile, a grin; I would even take a sneer. I am so alone. So terribly, terribly alone. You, the reader, I implore you, this could happen to you. You could just be walking along, trying to smile with just a little bit of tongue, and BAM! They disappear on you. Just like my father. This, this is a tale of warning to those who think they can just smile and get away with it. Stop kidding yourself. 

Update: The column was revised to omit insensitive language that refers to people of Roma heritage.

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