He stood there,
as I inched up the ramp onto the highway,
on the side of the road, holding a white pillow case.
Just smile, it said, scribbled on in black magic marker.
My lips were freshly coated, cherry bright.
I grinned, gave him the peace sign,
and accelerated onto the highway.
Who was he, I wondered.
For a moment, I felt unsafe, manipulated into a smile
from someone who surely wanted my money for drugs
or would follow me home and hurt my family
because the world is unsafe
and no one wants to simply shock someone’s system
into happiness by making them smile,
in traffic no less.
Or maybe it was a benevolence.
Or maybe it was simply something to do on a spring morning
when there was no house to leave,
no car to get into, and drive up the on ramp
off to work.