Updated: Jan 10
He never smiles.
He has this way of being stoic in the face of everything. His dark brown eyes look at you as if they are trying to figure you out—always on you, but never evolving. Usually staring signals affection, but his lack of emotion reads as uninterested, like he’s glancing your way only as a surveyor. His expression stays consistent, even if you give him a hug or tell him you are in love. He seems to be protective, emotionless not because he doesn’t care but because he cannot afford to care given the harmful external circumstances.
However, his physical actions suggest otherwise. He holds your hand, opens the car door, and gives you an ice-pack when you’re bruised. For humans, it’s often the other way around. Usually, we talk and talk and talk about our care, sympathy, and love and then act with complete and utter selfishness: he, however, barely ever speaks or smiles and only acts selfless, in your benefit.
He never cries.
And you might think that’s a good thing, being with someone who doesn’t feel pain. But it’s not that he doesn’t feel pain, it’s just that he never exposes it, lets you see it, and you really want to. You could throw a bottle, a phone, or a brick at him, and he still wouldn’t show it. He’d flinch, dodge probably, in order to minimize its impact, but, once the act is over, he doesn’t dwell on the past, informing you of the damage. He doesn’t care for himself in that way, pushing you off when you try to help as if he’s some burden harming your potential.
So, when he first tells you he loves you, you don’t know what to do. Love was described to you as a feeling represented by laughter and crying, the absolute extrema of happiness and sadness. How can you believe him when he has never showed either of these? His constant expression hovering between joy and misery, this kind of purgatory, cannot be love. After all, the opposite of love isn’t hatred, it’s indifference.
So, you do the only thing you can do: you act as though you never heard him.
He never laughs.
You could lip-sync a whole song to him, and he wouldn’t even smirk--not once. Even Britney Spears’s “Oops, I Did It Again” won’t get to him, no matter how much you over-exaggerate her diction and use your hand as a fake microphone. He just continues, remaining unfazed, with the exact same air of seriousness. So, turning off the music, you’ll sit back down in the passenger seat, putting back on your seatbelt and staring at the road in front of you, mimicking his apathy. It can get quite boring, these long car rides, the only sound being the sporadic dripping of the rain and the turn of the windshield-wipers. You don’t know what to say as you feel you don’t know him: he barely ever tells you anything about himself, so all you have is speculation. You speculate about the town he grew up in, the kind of parents he had, and the music he once enjoyed, starting to accept you won’t ever know.
But, as you start to drift off into sleep, in that intermediary between daydreaming and full-fledged unconsciousness, he reaches out his hand to touch yours, bringing them to sit on the cupholder between your seats. You first don’t register his touch as belonging to him, quickly bringing your hand away, instinctively shielding yourself. With such little contact, his hands are still quite strangers to you, having interacted with objects you’ve touched--cars, houses, and furniture--but never you directly. But, after a while, you get used to it. You begin to memorize the experience. In contrast to the cold world surrounding the car, his hands are warm, heating up your own in the process as they begin to acquire color after a period of being stark white. He still focuses on driving, checking every new sign that appears on the road, while you sit there gazing at the side of his face, but his hand keeps you company. Before long, you’ve completely lost all hold on reality.
Sensing your eyes off of him as you embarks on a deep sleep, he turns his head in your direction. Recognizing your own lack of consciousness, he stares at you with eyes that are so soft and so loving, regarding you as the most precious thing in this world. In that moment, everything fades. The approaching light in the distance turning from yellow to red is run by his disregard for the outside world. The cars honking at him to slow down fade into those quiet sounds you hear at the doctor’s office when getting your ears checked—small decibels that only the most acutely-trained ear can hear.
He finally lets out a smile.
The leaves change color for a single season once every year: their rare appearance in the fall makes the colors especially beautiful. Old songs get boring after a while: once you have memorized every lyric and every beat, there is nothing more to learn. New shoes soon lose their value: after wearing them for a certain number of days, they become a part of your average look, contrasting the initial uniqueness they gave your outfit when you first saw them exhibited so gorgeously at the mall.
There is a universal truth about frequency in nature and in life: when something is rare, it is all the more beautiful.
This was no exception.