Of all the things we were told to sacrifice towards the end, brushing my teeth without water was going to be the most difficult. I didn't mind going unshowered. Not was much I thought I would anyway. We had already stopped washing clothes weeks ago. We were used to that. (more) The first morning after the new restrictions set in, however, the idea of putting a dry toothbrush in my mouth was unbearable. How would I rinse the chalky toothpaste from my mouth? I stood looking at my toothbrush for at least five minutes before I broke the law and turned on the sink.
Initially, I intended to limit my transgression to just a splash, just enough to wet my brush before I applied the paste. The water was clear and cold and I found myself watching it escape with a nihilistic zeal. I shoved my head into the sink, turned my mouth towards the stream and drank. I don't think any of us realized how thirsty we could become. My toothbrush fell from the counter and landed on the dirty bathroom floor as I saturated my body with it's most primal ingredient.
After thirty seconds, the torrent ended abruptly. It was metered by the city and in the early morning, before my wife and children were even out of their beds, I gone through our entire daily allotment. How would I explain to my five year old daughter that she could not have a drink because her daddy, her hero, drank it all already? I looked down at my toothbrush. I lay facedown on the floor between the sink and the toilet.
She did the little things right. A hot iron kept the promise that her hair would stay tucked toward her jawline all day. Make-up was tasteful, present but not the main attraction, showed enough effort to be noticeable but not desperate. Cheeks were taut but not hollow, brushed with(more) bronze. Lips soft pink, amplified natural. She pouted unconsciously, a whisper of braces from childhood and a mouth that adapted.
If he knew the work that went into the little things, she thought, he'd be astonished. The subtlety was for her, the artisan, who knew you don't build a monument without the mortar, the trowel and the grit, years of consistent flicks of the mascara eyebrush and the learned balance of her left and right hands to create symmetry in the eyes where so many fail. Give him nothing small to focus on, she knew, and he must absorb the whole, and on her terms.
And it was all for this moment, hundreds of thousands of soft brushstrokes through her hair over the years, the steady drone of self-criticism every time she passed a mirror or a window, the shame she injected into herself when she caught herself slouching, a lifetime spent as a little girl working for something she knew was important but couldn't possibly understand why. All for that moment when she pulled open the door, smiled that perfect smile so practiced and worn that it meant literally less than nothing to her, betrayed nothing of her true feelings, how she resented feeling plastic and on display, to be studied then admired, to be judged and then accepted. Decades spent hiding themselves. Porcelain and lace, a hint of rose and ginger, a walking husk embodying aesthetic perfection. A life of compromise for this moment.
They tell me to do this in the morning as I wake. They tell me again do it midway through the day and even another towards the end. Well three times is a bit meticulous for me and I've found i can't manage even once.
(more) I just haven't formed those habits. But i've learned some things about common toothpaste that justifies this action!
I try and tell my mom, i try and tell my friends, i try to tell everyone, but they look at my teeth and then....