You should smile more

When walking to the station after work a few weeks ago, I was approached by a man crossing the road. In the rain the city moves too slowly, inhabitants retreating to its corners like snails to their shells. When I walk I sometimes talk to myself, quietly cursing pavement traffic, forgetting that without a mask my lips are laid bare for the world to see.

In the side streets behind Trafalgar Square a slug emerges from the undergrowth, crawling towards me through the dirt. He looks me up and down, eyeballs bulging as brain cells slowly connect to formulate his next sentence. “You should smile more”, he said. “You’d look so much better.” To him, I think.

“You should smile more” he said. “You’d look so much better.”

I don’t exist to look attractive for strangers who shout at me from the darkness of street corners.

I almost turned around to shout expletives at him but I did not, afraid of retaliation. What astounds me is the confidence men have to direct me like I’m on stage for their audience. If I smiled, it would be because I wanted to, when I wanted to, not because I was told it would make me look better for someone else.

– Nikitah

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