smiling is as smiling does

The soft, yellow light of the concert stage graces his face and he is at once softened and sharpened, the shades and shadows of his face kinder and clearer for the fans carefully drawing them into their memories below. Mental notes are scribbled; the curve of his nose carefully engraved, next to the way his fingers wrap around the neck of the guitar in the collective archive of memories floating above the crowd. They’re swaying, inching imperceptibly closer, moths toward the irresistible flame of talent and chest-ringing acoustics. And the pure joy. It’s almost palpable in the air he takes in and breathes back out, the great delight he takes in doing this thing he has mastered and handles with the unassuming ease of steering one’s own limbs. Camera shutters click in endless desire; eyelids, too, cover and uncover their shining orbs in slow motion, as if to expose the retina to the particular shape of his light, to develop the memory films and tuck them away along with the smells, the feelings, the sounds of the night.

He smiles and they smile back, it’s a reflex neither party can help, and no one can remember who started the exchange but it doesn’t really matter. He gazes down and smiles – somehow proudly and shyly at the same time, a part of his magic – as he tells them how pretty they all look, gazing up at him with their own smiles on their faces, how nice it is to be here, Everyville, America, you guys are just the best. He tells them how happy they look, and they’re tricked into even more enthusiastic smiles, all the happier because he says so and then happier still, which makes him beam again, and again, and again. It might be a genius stage trick, he’s an old hand at this, they know, but it, like so many things right now, just doesn’t matter. Nothing matters except the fact that he tells them we look happy and then they are so. Swaying to the magic of unknown melodies amid unknown bodies, the air thick with last-minute hair spray and summertime sweatiness under the awning that holds the starlight of the late concert and the smiles no one can help.

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