Teeth

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I had a dream the other night that my teeth were falling out. First whole, molars followed by canines, then in chunks and shards. No blood, just polished cream fading to baby pink at the root or the jagged edges where they splintered. I was afraid of swallowing them, but I never did. I spat them into cupped palms and gingerly tongued the gaps closest to the front, the ones most visible to others. It was my fault they had loosened, but I don’t remember why. I wished I could undo it, that I could reverse time and take better care of them, but I told myself that someone would love me anyway, that someone might even love the gaps themselves. I told myself it could be worse; you can live without teeth.

I’m smiling tight-lipped when he leans in to tell me that the worn green lines go “all over” his body, indicating, of course, his penis. He tells me that you should never hit against the muscle grain if you want to avoid bruising. He presses a wrinkled finger lengthwise on my arm to demonstrate, and I don’t know how to tell him I don’t ever want to be touched by strangers, so I ask if the tattoo hurt. I wonder how old he was when he got it, aware of the tension in my temples that comes with a clenched jaw, taut shoulders. He says when you focus on the pain it suddenly stops hurting, because all the hurt came from dread and you realize you never needed to dread it to begin with. His smile is all gums, laugh lines folding into delicate branches of skin.

When you look up “teeth” in the dream dictionary it comes up under “body” and only after “body situations”: bodiless, body being cut open, burnt body—where burn is painful, where the burning body is beautiful, leaving body. The subsection for teeth is longer than heart and bone but not as long as hand and blood.

There’s a lot about biting and gnashing and chewing before you get to loosening, spitting, falling: “This may be felt as the sense of not being able to get what one deeply wants, and so is experienced as a death, or a loss of self in some degree.”

We ask permission for different kinds of touch. We’re all drunk, and I try to make it sound like a joke or an off-hand comment, wishing I had someone to hold hands with while everyone else is paired off, but I almost cry when she skips away from her wife to twine her fingers with mine.

I’ve only kissed boys this year, and when I fall asleep with them they’re softer than I imagined they would be. They like being little spoon and I like that they never take without asking. I start the year reckless and now I’m so careful, and I’m not sure which is better when both feel like pressing on a bruise. I love them with ferocity and fear, because I never thought I could, because too often I spit love out with mouthfuls of blood.

The attachment glows purple like the strings of Christmas lights on their window, haloed and over-bright in my smudged glasses. It feels like the zap of a tattoo gun, tiny lightning sparks arcing between skin and wand, and I’m not sure I like it. When she uses herself as a conductor, it changes—jolts accompanied by a drag of nails, the warmth of human skin. We play with a chainmail belt, a whisk, a mesh tea ball, menacingly-sharp pinwheels, the cat’s tail swishing with interest as we shriek and giggle. If you use the wand on someone else, you don’t feel it at all; I expect the same when it’s my turn as conductor, but skin-on-skin thrums and prickles below the pads of my fingers, a cloud churning grey-black.

I ask permission to kiss his hand while she’s touching him, while we’re all linked. When I do, my lips spark, and my startled laugh exposes teeth.

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