“Controlled Smiles”: A Short Story

Every Monday morning, I greet an imposter.

Her name is Cindy, and she sits behind the veneered desk at the front of my office. She flashes a controlled smile at the men, who nod “Morning” to her. This is the same smile Cybil, Catherine, Caroline, and Cathy rehearsed before the job interview. Cindy performed the best act, so she got the job. Now, the men who sit in the cubicles adjacent to my own envision her as their wife and ignore the depressed creatures folding laundry at home. 

Cindy is not an imposter because she becomes the new wife in many men’s lives. You would be mistaken if you thought that. Instead, she wears tight white blouses, with black or gray (or maybe brown, ooh la la!) pencil skirts. Her hair is fluffy and Farrah Fawcett-ed. She gets spray tans regularly and pays no attention to the skin cancer warnings. It’s not because she wants to, but because she has an image to reflect; a quota of minds to satisfy as the first face the Wall Street yuppies see when they come into our glass office.

When Cindy goes home, I’ll bet there’s a Vogue and an Elle and a US Weekly lying in the pile of bills and subscriptions. “Best Diets to Get That Summer Beach Bod!” and “The One Food Christie Brinkley Swears By” are intertwined with headlines of gay men dying from some virus and a nuclear plant exploding in Ukraine. Her wall is covered with prints of important art by important artists while she listens to music she doesn’t like. The custom birch cabinets in the kitchen have been replaced with laminate ones, undoubtedly holding trendy IKEA plates she saw in the catalog.

For sure, there’s some sort of indication that the 850-square-foot apartment on Lexington belongs to Cindy; you can find it in the rent paperwork.