The paper-thin skin of the girl made of gold fills me with awe. Upon first hearing her story it is possible that she may appear fragile. It’s true, she has been torn to the gilded core by nightmares of torture. But inside she knows that she is still precious, she is still solid, and she is still brilliant.
And it is her paper-thin skin that makes her radiance all the more prominent.
When my friend told me her story, I didn’t know how to respond or even how to feel. My throat shrunk as I struggled to swallow. If I can sit here, wrinkling the sleeve of my flannel as I nervously wring the fabric through my sweaty hands just listening, then I can only image how many shirts she has ruined, how many sheets she has twisted, and how many layers of her lips she has peeled off while horror films are screening behind her eyelids.
But it is not her battle that amazes me, it is not her effortless confidence and it is not even her strength. What fills me with more wonder than anything is this girl’s smile.
Her smiles are frequent and most often caused by what others may consider mundane. Hot cocoa makes her melt. She can barely get a sip in past her teeth as the steam tickles her nose and stretches the corners of her mouth upward.
Her heart beats fast, in tune with the pulse of the city that she loves. When she looks out at it through the window, her skin glows in a way that no sunset laced skyline can imitate.
This happiness is not some sort of ruse carefully crafted to shut the world out. Yes, I am sure she has days where the word “fine” is just a curtain to hide behind. And I know she has times when she is not sure that there will ever be anything to smile about again.
Feelings like this are understandable, and even expected, from people who have experienced the most vile facets of human existence.
But these smiles that I have seen are real. That glow is real and that golden radiance cannot be faked by anything sold in a makeup store.
In those moments her happiness is real and it is the most beautiful thing that I have ever seen.
Our ability to forget misery might be a product of evolution. It might be a defense mechanism created to protect us from drowning ourselves in our own misfortune or self-pity. Still, our ability to smile — to experience pure joy — during trivial moments despite our constant downfalls, misfortunes, fears, or unanswered questions helps me believe that no matter what, I can always be happy.
This amazes me.
Although I consider myself a child of average misery, I also believe that the bell curve is heavily skewed to the right. Our world is full of stories about schoolyard bullies, drunken fathers, urban violence and yes, even rapists.
But the frequency of these heart-wrenching stories does not make them any more common. It does not make looking in the mirror any easier and it does not make the purple patches of skin heal any faster.
I know there will be misery. But, because I have seen this girl’s smile, I know that I will always have something to smile about.
I know that demons will grasp my delicate throat with their ashy fingers and try to make me frown. And I know that some of them will succeed. But, because I have felt her glow, I also know with certainty that even with evil tied around my throat I would be able to take in a breath of hot cocoa-scented air and I would swear that I have never had a more memorable experience.
Yes, she may be tattered on the outside, but that just makes it easier to see the gold at her core. She still has the ability to shine. So do I. And so does everyone that lies anywhere on the bell-curve of misery.
And that makes me glow.