On the evening of his 50th Birthday, he lost his first tooth.
Fluorescent lights bounced off the drops of sweat slowly forming across his weather-beaten skin. He was panting pathetically, winded from painfully eyeing the curly grey hair protruding from his left ear. A little trim would do him good before an afternoon beer with the lads!
His arms felt heavy, so he put the scissors down on the hardened towel next to the sink.
“Bloody scissors!” he protested and put his hand back down. He closed his eyes, but his stomach hit the ice-cold porcelain sink.
“Damn it!” he yelled at his sweaty reflection in the mirror. “Damn it!” he yelled and raised his hand; his chubby index finger was stuck to the scissors. He shook his hand until the scissors fell into the toilet bowl, splashing water on his calves. He let out a groan, waving his fists in the air like a little boy.
“I’m FINE!” he shouted, convinced that he had gotten the entire house worried. He opened the bathroom door and left it ajar, beckoning an audience with his so-called “loved ones”.
“To Hell with it!” he yelled and threw the towel into the toilet bowl. He cupped water in both hands and slapped himself in the face. His heavy hands slowly slid down, stretching his skin like pizza dough.
He brushed his grey walrus moustache away from his thin purple lips, stroking it as he did so. He loved his moustache more than any of the “loved ones” who rudely occupied his house. As his fingers brushed over his lower lips, he felt a little sting. He cradled the tooth back and forth with his tongue.
He walked right out into the living room in his boxers. It was his birthday and he didn’t care about what his mother-in-law thought of his half-naked appearance. His son was sitting at the dinner table with a cup of instant noodles in one hand and his phone in the other.
“Junior,” he yelled at his son.
“What is it, Dad?”
He walked back into the bedroom, searching his wife’s make-up drawer.
“JUNIOR!” he yelled, ignoring his wife’s angry moans under the sheets.
“What is it, Dad?”
“Help me find the small mirror.”
Junior appeared at the door, chuckling in amusement.
“Itffffin the fffffird drwwr,” moaned his wife through the pillow.
His wife’s head emerged, yelling: “It’s in the third drawer!”
He gave the mirror to Junior and sat on the tiny stool in front of his wife’s vanity table.
“Go grab the flashlight from my desk.”
“Here you go, Dad.” Junior dropped the flashlight in his hands and turned to leave.
“COME OVER HERE.”
Junior was too busy chuckling at his phone.
His wife let out a louder moan and clawed the bed for another pillow to throw over her head.
“I’m gonna keep the mirror straight, and you shine the flashlight through the mirror and into my mouth. Check if my tooth is broken.”
“Which tooth is it Dad?”
“I dunno. One o’ the sharp ones.”
Junior took his sweet time, shining the flashlight in the mirror.
“I can’t look into your mouth and shine a flashlight at the same time, Dad. It’s physically impossible,” he said with the confidence of an astrophysicist. “The flashlight’s blockin’ my view. You should just go to the doctor.” He walked away.
His wife’s head emerged from a pile of pillows and yelled, “He doesn’t need a mirror to look inside your mouth, you idiot!! He can just shine the flashlight straight into your mouth!” She disappeared back into the sea of pillows.
She was right. His son was an absolute moron who had unfortunately inherited his father’s confidence.
He walked back into the bathroom, playing with his tooth. He was daydreaming when he realized his tooth had popped out into the sink. He slapped his mouth shut with one hand, letting out an involuntary “moo”. His other hand heroically dove to prevent the tooth from falling into the drain.
The tooth hit the porcelain, rolling into the little forest of curly hair on the back of his hand. Staring down at his furry hands, he had an eagle eye view of his tooth on a bed of fur, like a crashed airplane in a cornfield. He sighed in relief, opening his mouth enough for a juicy drop of blood to paint the sink.
“I’m FIIIINE,” he yelled, aimed at his “loved ones”.
“JUNIOR YOU LITTLE SHIT!”
“Why doesn’t anybody love me in this house?”
“I’m… Fine…” he whispered with tears forming in his eyes. Blood was dribbling down his chest hair. His “loved ones” didn’t care enough.
Towering above the little tooth he spotted a large cavity with a tiny light flickering through.
He lowered his head, gently blowing air inside the hole. The tooth inflated like a balloon until it reached the size of a bowling ball. Inside the hole he could faintly spot a small figure, standing next to a bonfire.
There was a knock at the bathroom door which startled him and launched his tooth into the sink.
“I don’t care—just get out already. I need to pee.”
He opened the door and slid past his wife.
“What the Hell happened here? Why is the towel in the toilet?” yelled his wife, but he ignored her and kept looking for the brass wire brush under the kitchen sink.
“You alright, hon?” she said with genuine concern this time.
“Talk to me! What’s wrong with you today?”
“Leave him alone, Mom—he’s just hungry” was the brief statement that Junior miraculously managed to fit between a chuckle and a slurp of instant noodles.
He yanked the brass wire brush from the furthest corner of the cabinet and walked back towards the bathroom.
“What do you need that brush for?” she said, following a step behind him.
The bathroom door slammed in his wife’s face. The bathtub was filling with hot water.
His wife turned towards her mother in rage. “See, Mom! See the things he does?”
But his mother-in-law’s lethargic response was muffled through the door.
He carried the tooth to the bathtub, throwing it in the water with a gentle grunt.
“Are you done yet?”
Now that both his socks were drenched, there was no point in staying dry. He stripped naked and dove headfirst into the tub.
“Is everything alright, hon?”
Upon impact, water gently slapped the brush out of his hands. He swam downwards until the water turned dark purple. Light couldn’t pierce this deep, but the warm water was soothing. He felt calm for the first time in years. There was nothing in his world but the gentle trill of the water tap above.
His hands hit an object in the dark and a moment later, he was swimming upwards, brush in hand.
When he reached the surface, it was night already. He swam towards the flickering ray of light on the horizon for what seemed like hours until he spotted his tooth, firmly perched on a bed of palm trees on the coastline.
When he got out of the water, his beard was scraping against his knees. His fat had melted off, leaving behind the absolute essentials; with newfound strength he climbed up the trees and towards the light.
The cavity was guarded by a thick wall of smoke, flickering with shades of bonfire yellow. He stepped inside the smoke-filled dome, mapping the cave by running his left hand along the walls. He sat in a warm corner and listening to the crackling of wood.
He heard a door slam.
“Your friends are here, hon.”
All of a sudden the cave was flooded with light, and before he could make out what was happening outside, a strong wind put out the fire while another sucked out all the smoke.
Full moon provided enough light for him to see one side of the cave. He picked up the brush to clean the thick layer of soot that had formed along the walls.
“I wish you could speak to them yourself, hon.”
He ignored his wife and spent countless hours cleaning the walls.
After he scraped the last speck of black off the milky white walls, His wife’s voice echoed in his head. Tears formed in his eyes. He dropped his brush, and with the soot left on his fingertips, He drew a hunter, extending his spear towards a pack of wolves.
“Tell them I’m busy with something,” he yelled out, balled up in a dark corner.
“They’re all waiting for you! Just like us! We all care about you, y’know?”
“Junior was too busy to come, but he sends his best wishes! You know he really misses you…”
He was filled with self-loathing. He tried to occupy himself by cleaning the walls, but the rusty bristles had given up long ago. Junior’s laughter echoed in his head.
He stuck his hands in the ashes left behind from the bonfire, and on the moonlit wall he drew a large deer as tall as himself.
“I wish you could talk to me.”
“I’m a fifty-year-old man,” he yelled, trying to hide his emotions. “I don’t need you.”
“Anyway, Happy Birthday!”
“Tell Junior I need him.”
“The roses are from me. Your friends brought the rest.”
“Remember when we used to live together?” he yelled. Tears ran down his cheeks. He sprang up to erase the deer, but there was nothing left on the brush but a rotten piece of wood.
“Your friends are gone now. It’s just you and me, hon.”
He balled up in a dark corner once again. Covering his ears with his elbows.
“Just you and me, love! Like old times! Now let me hold you one last time!” Her voice echoed in the cave. She was tearing up. It was the first time he was hearing her voice shake.
He ran towards the opening of the cave and dove into ambiguous depths of dark water below. He swam deeper and deeper until there was no sound other than the gentle trill of the water tap above.
Cradled in the vaginal warmth of water, he felt the pain of being born.