Her smile does not fade as the sun goes down. Neither does the glow in her eyes. If anything the departure of the sun leaves all attention to her. Her smile is both radiant and infectious. She smiles at the taxi driver stuck in traffic, she smiles at the teenager waiting for for the red light to cross the road. She smiles at everyone. Some smile back, some stare, shy ones look away. Her smile is effortless; it seems to come from from somewhere deep. Probably that’s why she was chosen by marketers to ‘light’ up the highway. Billboards bearing her face are hard to ignore. At first,the billboard surprises you- its rare beauty. With time you get used to it, but every time you walk or drive by it, you can not ignore it- you look forward to seeing it. No matter how long it has been there, it doesn’t fail to draw you to it.
Different people, different reactions. Most stare, switch off from everything around them but her image. Some smile back, consciously or unconsciously. Others only need a slight glance and walk away with the image imprinted in their minds. Her image; her smile. Everyone makes the most of the moment and heads on.
Her name is Mercy Mugure . She is 5’9, slim and a chocolate complexion. Her smile is just as it is on billboards. It’s like she is practicing all the time. It is like she is posing all the time. Effortlessly. Her hair is mostly -if not always- cinched by a rubber band at the back of her head. It doesn’t get in the way of her smile. Just like her brow and nose, her ears are not pierced. Not even her eyes brows are trimmed. She is a natural. The purity of her face seems to suggest virginity. Her face is free of taint and jewelery. She can easily pass for a teenager in high school but her mature body and mannerism betray her.
Her job discovered her before she discovered it. Her job chose her; her job called her. At first she had excuses. Many excuses. But her job could hear none of them. She was cut out for it. When she finally gave in, she fitted in like she was home. She became comfortable, she liked it and embraced it. She smiled like she always has.
Saturday mornings can be dull, especially if it is the first weekend of the month. Most people are usually in deep sleep or paying for the previous night’s sins with a hangover. Most banking halls are usually like grave yards. Quiet apart from low voices at the counters. Even the television is mostly off or on mute- on Saturday mornings.
Then, a tall figure in a long dress walks through the door with confident strides. She is almost recklessly confident. She doesn’t seem to monitor her appearance minute by minute like most ladies. She has the sheen of an exotic bird, not from her clothes but from her body and the way she carries it.
Though silently, the hall seems to come to life. Other ladies cease to drag themselves and begin to ‘swing’. The teller at the counter adjusts his spectacles and assumes an upright sitting position. She may not be the prettiest lady in the banking hall but something-or everything- about her gets everyones attention. From her eyes to her smile to her shoulder blades. Effortlessly. As she unconsciously brings the hall to life; calls are made; offers are laid; deals(modeling) are struck;large sums are negotiated; stars are made. All behind her back.
It is not everyday a naïve girl walks into a banking hall to pay her college fees and a stranger approaches to ask if she would be interested in modeling. It is not everyday that ‘naïve girl’ is the most natural model agencies have seen in a long time though unaware of her worth. Probably thats why the stranger would not let her walk away. Probably thats why the stranger introduced herself and explained to Mugure of the gold under her feet. Probably that is why the stranger would not take Mugure’s excuses of being in college and tight schedules.
Modeling may require a lot of effort and sacrifice from most girls, but not Mugure. She does it like she is not doing it. Like a body function. Modeling doesn’t require her to starve herself, living on water, vegetables and dreams. Modeling doesn’t require her to spend hours hoisted on high heels she can barely walk in. Modeling doesn’t require her to spend half the day on a treadmill almost fainting. Modeling doesn’t require her to punish herself. It only requires her to take care of herself like she always has. Thats why her smile almost ceases when she sees the trouble wannabe models go through. They punish themselves; they starve themselves; they strain. They push themselves to the edge. Few stay on, most painfully fall off. When most discover modeling, they choose it, it doesn’t reciprocate. They push harder, they stretch, the break.
Agents, stylists, camera crew and marketers all love her. They respect her- thats how she knows she is home. They treat her like a rare precious stone. A rare precious stone polished with care as if wary to upset it and its Maker.
Mugure sees modeling a candle in the wind. You never know when it will burn out. You never know when a strong wind will blow it out. You never know when the rains will come down. It may go off at any time. So, she not only sticks in college but also performs as well as she used to. She doesn’t quickly change friends now that her smile is all over town. She still ques in banks on Saturday mornings as she used to. She still takes care of herself. She is yet to pierce her brow, nose or ears. She is still stunning to look at. She still smiles as she always has. The candle in the wind is still burning.
Soundtrack: Shinedown – If You Only Knew