One morning at The Royal Palace Square in Stockholm. A perfect time to enjoy the breeze, deep fresh air inhalation, and the sound of silence in a place that attracts millions of tourists every year, where the sound of chattering crowds in numerous languages would eventually – inevitably – arrive within an hour or two. A very few people walked around the square aimlessly, in distant, drowning themselves in a grandiose palace that stood gracefully before their naked eyes.
Meanwhile, I felt like I owned the stage: the square. I imagine being one of the royal family members wearing a beautiful gown, stepping on the cobble stone pavement wearing the signature Cinderella’s glass shoes, covered with the red carpet heading to my chariot. All the guards bow on me, I bow on them back as a sign of respect and gratefulness to their service and loyalty.
Speaking of the royal guards who have been protecting the Royal Family since 1523, I think I have to end my princess diary daydreaming. Having passed by the alley to the main square, one of the guards on my left side suddenly attracted me in the way I would never have expected. No, no. It wasn’t like encountering the sexiest man alive or a rock star.
Indeed, he undoubtedly has a very well-built posture and robust under the blue uniform he was wearing, the kind of physical condition that a guard or a soldier should have at least.
Although the shadow from the front peak of his “pickelhaube” prevented me from looking at his eyes, I could see both ends of his lips slanted upwards, forming subtle smile, which was calming and soothing, delivering a warm welcome to the imposing residence of the Royal Family.
It was an expression of his enthusiasm in serving the country. He was born with it. Smiling is part of the job description. That’s why long hours of standing still didn’t turn him to be a grumpy man.
May be. Just may be.
Who is this man really behind that subtle smile, when his shift is over? A divorced man, a father of two or still in a mission to get Mrs. Right? My curiosity wasn’t that far until I wrote this. Suppose I knew more, it would be an additional information that could spice my story up.
Then, along came the Brit chappies in their mid 20’s. One of them was trying to make a conversation with this blue-uniformed young man – let’s call him Mr. Subtle Smile, or Mr. Smiley, in short – while keeping the distance to respect the Royal Guard’s territory as he got used to with The Queen’s Guard in his country of origin.
With a pronounced English accent, he asked for Mr. Smiley’s approval to take a picture somewhere near the spot where he stood. Without saying a single word, Mr. Smiley created an imaginary horizontal line with his white-gloved index finger, showing the border line where he and his chappies could strike a pose. My guess was they were allowed to stand about 1 to 1.5 meters from Mr. Smiley’s position.
The chappies made fool of themselves with funny gestures, poses and silly mimics to each other in front of the camera. They took turns to take pictures to make sure that everyone got captured in his “foolishness”. Other people who passed by turned their head to look at the chappies. They chuckled, smiled, laughed. Or at least got entertained a bit.
Despite being entertained, I was more curious to see Mr. Smiley’s reaction towards the silly chappies rather than what they did. In this situation, unfortunately, Mr. Smiley couldn’t do much. While on duty, he was prohibited to make “unnecessary” movements and sounds, from leaning his body to one side of the leg, scratching his back, to covering his mouth with his palm while laughing.
But I know one thing. He couldn’t hide his feeling that these chappies in front of him were actually hilarious and entertaining.
So he smiled. This time was a big smile. Not that subtle Monalisa smile. And not that joker-styled exaggerated smile either. It doesn’t take a genius to notice that all the muscles around his lips, jaws ans cheeks contracted harmoniously to form a crescent smile that really came from the heart. He tried so hard not to laugh and finally succeeded.
For him, smiling was the safest way, even the only way to express his emotion without distracting his job. For me, a picture of a fierce (body)guard in my head instantly faded away.
I’m asking myself now. Was he smiling when I passed by, before the chappies had made silly poses? Or I was still daydreaming?
No matter what the answer is, If he looks like smiling even though he didn’t mean to, it implies that I labeled him right: Mr. Smiley.
I considered him as an additional Swedish hospitality. A guard doesn’t always need to have a sullen face or a sharp-knife eye gaze, after all.
Last but not least, trust me on this. Changing guards is not the only thing that makes a bunch of Royal Guards are worth waiting for….