Martha smiled broadly, showing her gleaming white teeth when I told her Matty has just died in a car crash. She showed no sadness, no emotion. We were all devastated.
Matty was a young intern, 23, full of life and energy. Very nice chap. We all loved him because he always knew how to dissolve a stressful situation with an intelligent joke. And he made us laugh with his imitations of everyone.
I was on the verge of tears, and Martha’s smile took me aback. I became angry.
-Did you hear me? Matty is dead! I told her, raising my voice
-Yes. I heard you. I’m so sorry, she answered me, still smiling.
-Then, why are you smiling?
-I can’t help myself.
-Do you mean you don’t care?
-No. I can’t explain. You won’t understand.
She buried her smiling face into his hands, and I heard her sob.
What happened after
After work, Martha didn’t go home. I followed her, I have to admit.
She used to be my girlfriend until she broke with me, without explanation.
Now, I wanted to know why her behavior was so strange. I decided to stop her and talk to her.
-Leave me alone, Jim, she pleaded, smiling like before but with tears rolling back her cheeks
-Tell me what is happening to you, I told her. You smile, but you’re suffering. this is not normal.
-I broke with you because I have lost my ability to experience feelings, she answered me. They taught me a technique to put each day a face according to the events foreseen: smiling face, focused face, sad face, angry face…, but when I put my face for a day, I can’t change it. So today it was my birthday, and I put in my smiling face. Then the sad news about Matty came, and I couldn’t change my expression. What a nightmare. I called my psychologist for an urgent session.
-You don’t need that anymore. I assured her.
-What do you mean?
-Forget your techniques and your artificial faces. You have found your feelings
-You don’t know what you’re talking about.
-Believe me. I know. I heard you sobbing behind your smiling mask at the news of Matty’s death, and I can see your tears now. You have found your feelings. So relax. Forget your artificial faces and show me your natural look—the one I love.
Her mouth began to tremble, her smile began to change and became natural and relieved.
-You’re right! Martha said, crying and laughing simultaneously. You don’t know how I missed you all these past months!