I open the door and the bell rings. That familiar electronic bell that is really more of a beep but tradition says it’s a bell and there’s no arguing with tradition. I am thirsty and really need to raise my blood sugar level before I faint. To this end I walk past the cashier without so much as looking up.
“Hello,” she greets me. I don’t bother to reply with words for fear of dehydration, so I merely wave then hurry on past.
My goal is to make it to the back of the store before I die. There’s a refrigerated rack of drinks back there and it ought to have something to kick my energy level up.
“Maximum Energy,” claims a certain orange colored can. It will do. I grab the can then head toward the counter. My body is deteriorating and I need to make this quick.
I set the can upon the counter and wait for the cashier to scan it before pulling out my credit card. I zealously swipe my card, perhaps too quickly, through the card slot.
It didn’t read the card; I definitely swiped too fast.
I swipe it again, this time a bit slower. “Authorizing…” said the machine as if to taunt me. It eventually claims to have authorized the card and completed the transaction.
“Would you like your receipt?” she asks.
“No,” I manage to whimper, ensuring I don’t let a single ounce of moisture escape my lips whilst doing so. I grab the can and start heading out, but I was not fast enough.
“Have a nice day,” said the cashier, accompanied by an awkward smile.
“You too,” I groan through the teeth of my equally awkward smile.
It’s Friday: awkward smile day.
I make it out the door, simultaneously cracking open the can of energy drink. I down it both out of the need for its moisture and to cover up my anxiety from the awkward smiling. I hate Fridays.
The can makes that familiar metal clink as I throw it into the bin. Recycling bin that is, ought to do my part in the community. Community. Damn. I almost forgot about the neighbors I’ll have to pass on my way home, awkwardly smiling to each one. It is mandatory after all. Fridays are awkward smile days.
The anxiety is flowing through my veins now, at least it is accompanied by sugar now. I didn’t die from the dehydration, but now I’m doomed to die of social anxiety.
I start towards home. I live only a few block away from this convenience store, but I don’t know if I’ll survive the walk. It only takes about three steps before I run into my neighbor from the floor above me.
“Hello,” she whispers barely audibly. She tries to force a smile onto her normally meek expression. It passes as a smile, but barely. I suck in my cheeks to try to form some sort of smile back.
“Good day,” I cough the words out in a moist fashion. My mouth has yet to finish clearing itself of all the drink I just forced through it. I sincerely hope she is the only person I run into.
I continue walking. I’d like to face the ground whilst doing so, but rules are rules, so I face forward. My steps are becoming increasingly forced, my knees visibly shaking as I tremble forward. All I need to do is make it home, I’ll be safe there.
I make it about three blocks unscathed by any social interaction. I saw a dog along the way and smiled at it just in case. I am becoming extremely anxious now. I don’t know if I’ll be able to handle any more smiling today. I may not be able to force myself next time.
Just as I think I may be able to make it the whole way with only one awkward smile, I see my nextdoor neighbor, Charles, come over the horizon. He is wearing a yellow jacket, it reflects is exuberant attitude with its brightness.
Charles loves Fridays, he thinks every day ought to be a Friday. He smiles all the time, every day, and to everyone. It is men like him that make today the worst, and I believe they are the ones who proposed the idea of these days.
“Good afternoon, neighbor!” he shouts as soon as we are within earshot of each other. His already formidable grin expands to encompass his whole face as he comes closer to me. I, too, smile. It’s an obvious façade and awkward as all hell, but I smile nonetheless.
“Good day,” I finally respond when we’ve become close enough to shake hands if we intended to do so. His gait is that of a giant as he struts past me, tipping his Stetson towards me.
After passing him, I can’t imagine the journey could get any worse. I walk the remaining few blocks with a vague smile across my face for fear of somebody surprising me and leaving me unable to smile in return. People need to smile at each other on Fridays.
I walk up the stairs to my apartment. Three sets of stairs up, not much of a bother but worthy of note. There is no doorman for the building so I needn’t worry myself with greetings the moment I arrive home.
Once I am up to my apartment I look up and down my hall to check for any greetings I may run into. Nobody is around. I unlock the door and let myself in.
“Meow,” barks my cat sarcastically. I look her straight in the eyes and respond clearly.
“Leave me alone.”
As it would turn out, my cat is a government spy. The next day I would be charged with community disruption and the court date set for next week. I fear this is the end of my life as a free man.
The sentences for such things can easily be several lives long, and the bails are unreasonable. I suppose I could make an appeal, but nobody would take my side. It’s all for the sake of community, even if she was only a damn cat.
Friday is awkward smile day.