"Girls Will Smile" by Jordan McCray
Girls will smile, the way that they do. Little believers and dreamers, smiling their little girl smiles. Two girls—sisters—brave and bold, one tying a string to a door knob, the other tightening the end around her little girl tooth. Then yanking, then screaming, then smiling. Girls smile, on warm Halloween nights, one as a genie, the other as Jasmine—trading one candy in exchange for another. Satiating their little girl sweet tooths. Girls, smiling as they jump down from the towering tree in their ugly dirty matching jumpers, they stub their toes and scrape their knees. Onwards to the garden where they pick their mother’s tomatoes off the vines and smash them against the concrete, still smiling like little girls do. Girls, diving down to the deepest depths of a swimming pool, escaping the summer heat, smiling as they transform into mermaids in search of the hidden treasure (more commonly known as dive rings). Girls on the 4th of July, setting off firecrackers like mad men, roasting marshmallows until they're as black as their skin. Girls, squeezed between their grandmother’s legs, wincing and weeping as she combs out the knots, but always smiling upon they see their thick, perfect braids. Girls in their cleats, and their shin guards, and their sweaty, oversized soccer uniforms after their first win.
Girls, stuffing their training bras, digging through their mother’s makeup, skimming through anatomy books and looking up words like ovaries and testes, smiling their mischievous smiles. Girls with acne, girls with hairy arms, girls with deep voices, smile because they’re not alone. Girls smile in the school halls, in the locker room, at the dining table. No longer seeing one another as girls but as nerds and as teases and as oreos and as fat-asses. Girls smile at one another’s failures and breakups. For getting caught halfway out the window, with half a shirt, and half her dignity. For being too opinionated, too controlling, too outspoken. Girls smile as they tune out their overprotective, over involved parents. Not listening to a single word, but still, smiling at each other as girls do. Girls driving past billboards, flipping through magazines, smiling at the possibilities of who they can become. Beautiful, perfect girls. The girls without the love handles and the dark skin and the thunder thighs and the tiny tits. They learn the difference between a Landing Strip and a Brazilian. One gets a tattoo, the other pierces her nose. One goes natural, the other does not. They argue, they hate, they love, they mourn, but still they smile.
They move-out. They learn and they learn and they learn and they learn. They learn truths and they learn lies. Girls, living in different states, smiling through the phone, reliving shared memories lived by little girls. Now sharing names other than their last. Names like slut and bitch and cunt. Girls, having sex without orgasms, smile. When they see each other once every season. Thanksgiving. Christmas. Spring Break. Summer. Weak smiles, tired smiles. They smile as they begin their first jobs, making coffee runs, scheduling meetings, filing papers. One smiles when her boss expresses shock from her unfaltering commitment to work, the other smiles at the uninvited hands that keep finding her waist every time she enters the office. They decide on their career paths, further separation. They change career paths, again, and again. They share a little less, visit a little less, smile a little less. But still, they smile. They bend and they drown in their distinctly separate lives. No longer believing, no longer dreaming. They say things like I’m fine or I’d love to or I don’t mind or I’m sorry. And the not-so-little, grown up girls continue to smile.
They never forget to smile.