Warning: This is bizarre.
It starts out just like a regular tooth brushing session. Wearing socks, I step into the bathroom and turn towards the mirror. For roughly a minute, I examine my face for new developments, leaning as close to my reflection as possible. Finding everything accounted for, I stand back up and reach for my toothbrush. I wet it, squeeze toothpaste onto it, open my mouth wide, and then set it against my right lower molars. The brushing begins.
And then it happens. I am suddenly and completely convinced that the toothbrush I’m using is not my own. It’s someone else’s. I’m using someone else’s toothbrush. Who is it? What if they find out? What if it’s my roommate’s and she walks by and sees me because I don’t shut the door when I’m just brushing my teeth? Would she be mad at me? Would she say nothing, walk away, and then leave a note by the sink asking me not to use her toothbrush. Would she bring it up
over dinner and say “Hey, you can totally use my toothbrush, but just make sure you ask me beforehand.” or would it be more like a roundabout story of how in her family, everyone always used their own toothbrushes and she guesses it’s just a personal thing but could I please not use her toothbrush anymore? Would she start taking her toothbrush out of the bathroom and shutting it in her nightstand? What if I went into her room and took it out of her nightstand and she saw me using it again? Would she ask me to move out or would it turn into a kind of game where she hides her toothbrush around the apartment and I keep on trying to find it? Would she ask me pointblank when she saw me with my toothbrush in her mouth, “Are you using my toothbrush?” And what would I say? “Oh I thought it was mine?” Is that even true? Am I some kind of psychopath that lies about my brushing habits, but not in the usual, “Sure, Dentist, I brush and floss two to three times a day,” but in a “Oh that’s so weird I completely thought it was mine” even though I doubted it was mine but went ahead and brushed my teeth anyways. And how can I even doubt whether or not the toothbrush was mine unless our toothbrushes look exactly the same, but mine and hers don’t because hers is blue and mine is white so I have no excuse but still I find myself wondering whether or not I’m using the right toothbrush? What does that say about me?
So there I am, alternately staring in the mirror at myself and at the toothbrush, and I have the distinct and unmistakable feeling I’m using the toothbrush of a stranger. I feel this even though I know for a fact the toothbrush is mine. I can see my roommate’s toothbrush in the blue glass that also holds our identical toothpastes, but we don’t care about the toothpastes because apparently those are fine and socially acceptable to interchange. But if you interchange toothbrushes, that’s just weird.
Is it because the bristles of a toothbrush explore the most intimate nooks of one’s oral cavity, massaging the crevices of one’s chompers and their gummy nest, inserting itself in all those places where the day’s gluttony lingers, shooing bits of taffy and apple peel out of their hiding places, scrubbing the tongue down including that part in the back that looks weird and kind of hairy because of the taste buds? Is it because of all of that?
Though I know for a fact the toothbrush I hold is my own, the doubt still plagues me. I miss my old toothbrush, the one I lost about a week ago. It was green and awkwardly sized in the fashion of a big crayon, but I had gotten to know it over the course of many brushings and felt I had reached a special place with it. But now it’s gone. And in its place is this cold piece of plastic that doesn’t understand me and doesn’t even seem to care. Maybe my roommate’s toothbrush would be nicer to use after all. Would she care if I did use it, just a few times, just until I got to know my new toothbrush better?