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Twice a Day
Last night I had another dream where my teeth fell out. Great floods of enamel erupting from my gums, blood seeping through my lips, my tongue failing to pin down my molars fast enough to save them. When the carnage ended so did my sleep, awake before dawn in the clutches of my nightmares. I shoved my fingers in my mouth to count. Went to the bathroom to check. Crouched down with my elbows on the counter and my lips pulled back and studied my teeth and saw, with a great horror, splashes of grey on my central incisors. In my mind, the beginning of rot.
The only person I knew with dead teeth was my brother. He didn’t smoke cigarettes or chew. He fell at the skate park and smashed his face into the concrete. My dad picked up the teeth and put them in his pocket and drove him to the hospital, where the nurses put them in milk. I was at home with the flu so I didn’t see when the doctor shoved them back in.
I looked at my teeth again, the two on the bottom I worried about. I scrubbed them with paste and flossed excitedly, trying to rub out the grey like wine on a rug. To no avail did my washing succeed. The tendrils of smoke remained.
A week ago I was enjoying coffee in my classmate’s apartment. I was invited to meet her friend from her hometown. As I sipped my drink she accosted her friend about Devon.
“What happened to him? Have you seen his dead tooth?” I assumed he’d knocked his out, too. But he smoked every day and drank every night and they’d never seen him brush his teeth, which is why I supposed it was dead. A boy I didn’t know in a town I’d never seen with the same troubles as the rest of us.
I suppose I shouldn’t worry so much, with modern medicine and all. My girlfriend is so confident she told me she was going to abuse her teeth until they fell out and she could get perfect white implants. I knew she was kidding so I laughed and promised to brush her dentures, because we couldn’t afford implants.
I can’t afford implants.
My brother’s teeth are going to fall out any day. They gave him until he was 25, when the teeth they glued back into his skull would crack and dissolve and leave him gummy. I can only imagine his fear. He calls me sometimes and we talk about sports, snowboarding and baseball. Sometimes girls. I don’t tell him about my dreams. And he doesn’t tell me about his. But I know someday he’s going to call me and say, “I had a dream where my teeth fell out, and in the morning they really did!” And it will be funny because he’ll have a reason, but destroying because I don’t.
the same shoes
it’s strange how the same shoes
can be more comfortable one day
than they are the next,
how the same view
through the same window
of a fruiting pear tree
can feel like both an analeptic
and an irritant in the span of a week,
how the pears rot,
how two people
with a few good years behind them
can suddenly develop
a strong distaste for one another,
which may actually
have been there all along,
those years of peace
really just a period of viral latency.
it’s strange how the vague colors
of the first hour of sunlight
can hold you in their arms
as a mother cradles a child,
while other days, those same colors
bring a sickness to your eyes,
reminding you of what is no longer
there beside you in bed,
or in the other room making eggs,
or somewhere in your gut
helping you to get up,
how a truck drives so many miles
over asphalt, ice, gravel,
and then parks one day
under a tree to foster weeds,
how even the weeds die.
it’s strange how dogs lose their bark
over the years and lie down more often,
how you stop hearing certain things
mentioned in the news,
how photographs yellow.
and it’s strange how a house,
once lived in and cleaned,
painted, made to feel like
something more than wood,
nails, and spackle, can become,
some eighty years later,
vacant and rusted, filled with dust,
a thing darkened and roach-ridden
with blackened interior walls
spattered in brown, bile-like stains,
a pair of paint-chipped, metal bed frames
and a torn wicker chair
the only remaining artifacts
evidencing any of the warmth
it once held, the blood
that once pumped through its walls,
the heartbeat that tapped gently
beneath its floorboards.