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  • A stroke.

    She thought I was having a stroke.

    "I was going to ask Jimmy if he noticed, after you were gone."

    I smiled my lopsided grin and rubbed my chin.

    "Dental work. It's all numb."

    Her brow furrowed.

    "It's the other side that goes down."

    "That side always goes down," I shrugged. "You just don't notice it so much when the other side goes up. It balances out."

    Despite the Novocain, the left side of my face still showed more emotion than the right.

    "It's kind of funny," I laughed when I told the dentist that morning.

    "At least, you have a sense of humor about it," she noted wryly.

    "If you can't laugh, what can you do?"

    I used to have a more even smile. The right side of my face used to be far more expressive but it had turned somewhat lopsided in recent years. Nobody bothered to explain it but I figured it was related to the multiple sclerosis. Another symptom. Nothing major. Just a bit of paralysis on one side of my face. I wonder what Mona Lisa was thinking or if she was thinking anything. Maybe that side of her mouth just didn't turn up.

    Between the half turn of my smile and the glasses I have to wear instead of my contacts (my eyes feel gritty, which is definitely part of the disease), I've gotten a little self conscious about pictures of me. I don't look like the me I remember. I don't look like the me I've always been. My smile's been more of the close-lipped variety in recent years, which twists even more.

    Old friends have called my likeness something between a psych ward therapist, deviant librarian and school teacher, which make feel worse about the glasses and grin, but I'll get used to it. We're all getting older. Our looks are changing with fluctuating weight, hair going more than coming and laughter settling into lines around our eyes and mouths.

    Besides, sometimes, I forget and smile anyway. Sometimes, I'm just that happy.
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