I’m sitting in my seat, quietly watching my neighbourhood from my front deck. My half written book lies limply in my lap as I look around the quiet street, searching the world for the one sentence that continues to elude my brain, thus putting my writing on hold. How one sentence can be so hard to put into words, I don’t know. My neighbour that lives directly across the road from me comes out his front door, donning old green gardening gloves and a lovely smile. He brushes his soft brown fringe out of his eyes and waves at me as he notices me watching from my wheelchair. I refuse to smile at him, but I give him a small wave. He kneels down and starts his gardening, while I watch bitterly. I shake my head and sigh as I turn back to my writing. It’s not his fault a drunk driver careened into me and rendered me unable to walk or stand. As I’m wallowing in my self-pity, it suddenly hits me. That one sentence that has eluded me for days on end. I quickly grab my pencil and start writing before the light bulb vanishes.
I’m out on my front deck again, soaking up the sunshine with my pencil and paper as I sit in my wheelchair. I’m furiously writing down the way a ray of sun gleams off of a puddle for my book when my neighbour across the street emerges from his front door wearing the same old green gloves as yesterday. I don’t know why I look up when he comes out, but I do. He waves at me with that gorgeous smile of his, and again, turns to his gardening eagerly and he’s lost in his work. The sun shining on his hair makes it appear almost golden. And then again, I get a sudden brain wave, all thanks to him. I jot it down happily and take a sip of my tea. Not even my cold tea can put a damper on this sunshine filled day.
It continues like this for some time. I sit out on my deck, my pencil and paper in hand, and he comes out, waves at me with a beautiful smile, and dives into his gardening. I then get a brain wave for my writing, and I scrawl it down before I forget it. But then, something happens. Don’t ask me what, ‘cause I don’t know. All I know is that it isn’t good, because the next day he doesn’t smile at me, he doesn’t wave, and he only gives his plants a quick watering before slamming the door behind him again. My brain wave doesn’t come as it usually does, because I’m too preoccupied with worry about my neighbour.
He doesn’t come out the next day, or the day after that. I stare at his door as if that if I stare at it hard enough, he’ll come out. But he doesn’t. Not even the amazing news my editor brings me that my book is going to be published statewide can shake me out of my worry. My editor is shocked when I don’t start instantly screaming in excitement with her. I open my mouth to try to explain, but I know I can’t. I just tell her that I am excited, and then hang up the phone. I sigh. I know the only way my worry will go away is if he comes out his front door again and smiles and waves at me like he used to.
I’m outside on my deck every day, so I know he hasn’t come out of his house for days on end. My pencil anxiously taps out a rhythm on my notebook as my worry turns to paranoia. What horrid, dreadful thing has happened that has shut him up in his house for so long? I give an involuntary shudder as my brain suddenly goes to the worst case scenario. What if he’s been killed, and I’ll never see him again? I shake my head and force my brain to think about other, slightly more logical alternatives about why he would shut himself up in his house and ignore the world. I turn my wheelchair around and go inside my house to get lunch before my wandering thoughts turn me insane.
Another week passes, and finally I see him again. I let out a huge breath of relief that he’s not dead, and look over at him, making sure I don’t look like I’m staring. He’s dressed in new yellow gardening gloves, faded blue jeans, but no sunny smile to light my day. Where did he leave it? Did he forget to put it on before he came out? Does he really not know how much light his smile brings to my world?
The next day he’s outside again, but he has still forgotten to put on his sweet smile. Why doesn’t he remember to put it on before he comes out? I’m almost angry at him because he hasn’t put on his smile. How selfish can one man be, that he doesn’t realise that the sad young lady across the street waits on his smile to bring sunshine to her day? Hasn’t he noticed that just one of his smiles can light her whole day? My brain pounds for a way to let him know how much his smile means.
The next day, I’m out on my deck bright and early, waiting for him to come out and do his gardening. He comes out earlier than I expect, and my breath hitches in my throat. I can’t tell you how much I hope that this will work. He pulls on his yellow gardening gloves and a drop splashes onto them, soaking into the cloth. It’s not til that moment that I realise he’s crying. My heart rips in two as I see tears flow freely out of his eyes and see his shoulders shaking with sobs. It makes me want to cry too, just to see him like that, but I force back my tears and gather my strength. I put a smile on my face and wave at him.
For a moment, I don't think he's noticed my scared yet hopeful face and my trembling, waving hand. But then he puts it on. He has noticed. He finally remembers to put on his smile. And I smile right back at him, hoping that it lights his world, just as much as his smile lights mine. Something in the smile he gives me tells me it does.