I’ve seen this kind of smile, too. I was a police officer once, long ago. I saw it most often on the faces of abused women and children. But I’ve also seen it on jail or prison inmates, trying to make the best life they can while sitting in poor man’s jail for offenses a rich man regularly commits with impunity.
My heart is pierced by the self-depreciating laughter of the hopeless whose eyes, as you said, do not smile. We need to more often notice. The lack of merriment in that kind of laughter never reaches the eyes. No wonder they’re called windows to the soul.
I truly enjoy your stories — although they are heartbreaking. They must be told and you are gifted with the ability to speak for those who cannot. Thank you for sharing your gift.