The soft murmur of laughter and voices fills the room, seeping into the cracks and holes of momentary silence that gives natural repose to the flow of words between the two people huddled by the table laden with a colourful array of snacks and appetizers.
There’s a palpable buzz that permeates through the air but the two speakers, engrossed in conversation, pay no attention to those around them. Nor do they pay attention to the veritable smorgasbord of delicacies that top the table. They are only present with each other.
“But you’re always so happy!”
“Oh? Why do you say that?”
“You’re always smiling. Every time I see you, you’ve got that grin splashed across your face. Exactly like the one you have now.”
It was true.
In the soft luminosity of the halogen pot lights of the kitchen, there was indeed a wide smile plastered across the otherwise expressionless face. It stretched from one side to the other, an upside down frown, emitting an enigmatic glow to those who basked in its radiance.
The face hardens momentarily, the farthest edges of the smile shrinking almost imperceptibly before returning to their full glory. This slight alteration going unnoticed. Or intentionally disregarded because it’s easier that way.
“It’s a mask.” the jovial-sounding voice offers from the now parted lips, that smile growing to its erstwhile exuberance once the words have departed on their perilous maiden voyage across the choppy channels of communication. The lines stretch to fill the emptiness that otherwise surrounds it, pushing the cheeks up to their usual resting place, precariously perched high atop cheekbones. Lifted to the ledge. A long way to fall down. The eyes seem to twinkle, but that could simply be the pot lights, reflected back from above, shimmering in the tears that coat the eyeballs.
There’s a brief pause as the conversation companion contemplates the words just spoken, weighing their veracity against the delivery, their gravity against their weight. Eyebrows furrow and eyes narrow in puzzlement, the mental rolodex of information whizzing through all the options.
Suddenly, a bigger grin emerges, realization replacing bewilderment. Understanding seeping instantly across visage. The light-bulb moment.
“You’re always such a joker!”