By Sophia Carlisle
Usually, when we brush our teeth together, the sound of your electric toothbrush lulls me into a lovely stupor. It’s the kind of state where everything is grey, meaningless, and I like to sit on the edge of the tub and watch as the bristles go around and around and around your too-white teeth because it puts me into a trance.
But tonight, after I put the kids to bed and made our dinner and then cleaned the dishes and threw in a load of laundry after the dishes because the socks really needed to be washed, you woke up from your nap and declared that we would watch a movie. I was surprised by this because usually, you like to wake from your nap then brush your teeth then maybe watch a tv show (something short) then go to bed immediately after because you’re terribly tired after a long day in the office, and I’m bouncing off the walls because I haven’t sat down all day, and my ears are ringing from the cries of our progeny. That’s when I like to watch you caress the food scrapes off of your teeth, like a lover moving delicate hands into all of your delicate places. It calms me.
So when you chose to skip this step of our carefully crafted routine of pliant domesticity, I was stunned. You didn’t seem to notice that my jaw was on the floor and simply rolled from our nap sofa to the lounging sofa to flip on the tv and play some type of action movie or something that would be two and a half hours long and also probably (definitely) wake up the children. And so I reached over the couch, my hands still damp from the dishwashing, and I cupped your face and said, Could we maybe brush our teeth first and then watch a show? Aren’t you tired from your long day? To which you said, I think we should change it up tonight, something different. Aren’t you tired of the same old thing? To which I said, No. When maybe what I really meant was yes.
You pulled me by the hem of my shirt which would surely develop wrinkles by tomorrow morning, and I sat on the sofa with you—on the far side because I wanted to make sure I could hear the beep of the washer clearly when it went off to change it asap because there was still our laundry to do and maybe the sheets if I could squeeze it in and—This is a nice change don’t you think?
I stared at you with your arm draped over the sofa and then at the tv which showed some guy driving a Dodge Charger eerily similar to the one parked in our two-car garage that would never see anything above 70 mph and two car seats strapped in the back. The engine revved on screen and it was so loud that I visibly cringed like the elderly do when there’s noise but I’m only thirty, only thirty. I think I’d like to brush our teeth now. Could you do that for me? My voice was almost louder than the television. Your breath hit me when you spoke and said Yeah alright, I get it, I get it, and I held my own breath just to avoid smelling the leftover lasagna on your tongue.
The bathroom was cool and blissfully quiet when we walked in, and I picked up your electric toothbrush before you could even turn on the tap. My heart raced as I laid the paste onto the brush and handed it to you, almost switching on the thing before it even went into your mouth. I took my position perched on the edge of the tub like I usually did when we performed this ritual, ready to be eased into a minute and a half of wide-awake slumber when you said, I think I need to take a shower first, and to which I said, For the love of god can you please just brush your teeth, and to which you said, Jesus, no need to overreact.
I watched as you put the toothbrush in your mouth and flipped on the switch and the brush began to massage your aching gums, your teeth that worked so hard during the day to give your smiles, your words, your affirmations to everyone else. I closed my eyes and was ready for relaxation when I heard the whir of the machine begin to escalate and you said, What the hell? And to which I opened my eyes and said, What’s going on? And to which you said, Did you fuck with the toothbrush? And to which I didn’t respond so transfixed was I on the toothbrush in your mouth that was gaining speed so quickly and violently that it began to cut your gums, your tongue, and blood was flying out of your mouth and you were beginning to cry and it was in your eyes (toothpaste and blood), and I leaned back on the edge of the tub enraptured by the show when it got even better because the toothbrush began to grow little legs that it used to crawl all over your face, brushing and brushing over your skin until it was rubbed raw like the inside of your mouth, and then it grew eyes that peered at me over the top of your balding head and then it grew teeth that were sharp (I could tell even from my position on the edge of the tub) and the toothbrush clamped its teeth into the top of your skull and took a giant bite of your head, and I swear you deflated like a balloon popped by one of our children.
Then the eyes of the toothbrush receded, followed by the legs and the teeth, and I listened but couldn’t hear a single peep from our children or you.
Sophia Carlisle is a recent graduate currently located on the West Coast. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Diet Milk Magazine, Erato Magazine, Crow & Cross Keys, and elsewhere. She enjoys wistful stories of all kinds and has a particular soft spot for the ghosts we let linger.