She did it. She actually did it. She flossed her teeth.
Bethany hadn’t properly and fully flossed her teeth in anywhere between three and fourteen months, so this was big. This was something.
Bear in mind, she’s not a derelict. She brushes, daily, twice. Once when she wakes and once before she sleeps. Every few days she’ll even rinse with mouthwash. But rare is the occasion when Bethany actually — -and quite literally, meaning there have been some odd times when she mimes the maneuver of flossing hoping to get some practice — -flosses.
But there’s today. And for no reason other than it seemed right, Bethany grabbed the readily accessible floss container in her medicine cabinet, sitting in complete irony between her toothbrush and the tube of toothpaste. She flipped open the box, pulled out a roughly twenty-four-inch length of minty string and severed it on the built-in cutter. Twenty-four inches seemed excessive but frankly it had been so long since her last flossing that Bethany forgot the standard length with which to execute the monumental task. Given that she had plenty in reserve, overshooting seemed moot.
It was happening. It was happening so hard.
She went ahead and spun the glossy thread around the heads of each index finger, strangulating the digits until they turned pink-white. Nevermind the pain, she thought. She had come this far.
A dilemma already: where to begin. Right to left, top to bottom like reading and writing? Center out like hair combing? This must be why so few people regularly floss, she thought. This must be why we die, she joked. Stop it with the humor and get to work, she scolded. Right to left, top to bottom. Like a book on Kindle or Nook or a book. Stop it, she warned herself.
Top right back teeth. Done. Barely. Move on, stay the course. Next teeth. Done. Ouch, a little. Press on. Next teeth. Good. A little blood, no worries. Next teeth. Awesome.
Blood, she thought. Not surprising. The less you floss, the unhealthier the gums are. The more blood. It’s simple math. But she felt some pride in the blood. It reminded her that she was at this moment like a soldier, taking on a task that regular people and mere mortals scoff at each and every day. She was suffering for the cause. They would throw a parade in her name when she returned home from battle, which is a poor analogy for this scenario considering Bethany was at home. Nevertheless, she was spilling blood for others.
Middle top teeth. Done. Next pair. Done. Next. Ouch. Soldier on, girl. Next teeth. Good one. Back pair now, reach, reach. Good enough.
Regret sets in. Just a little. She’d be on the train platform at this point on any other day. The cost of the floss, she thought. Onwards.
Back bottom right. Get it. Next. Good. Next. Good. Keep it up. Next. Nailed it.
Center bottom. One tooth is crooked, creating a wedge for the floss. It’s stuck. This was all a terrible idea. This isn’t natural. Don’t the brush bristles do enough?! Aren’t they small strings that get in there and…ok, it’s out. Next pair. Good. Quickly, wrap it up. Two. Three. Four. Good enough. Toss the string. Raise hands. Bask in your own glow.
She did it. She flossed. The thing teeth dentists recommend among all other things, the thing that takes just as long as brushing, “the thing with the string” as it’s known on the street. Bethany had finally done it.
She ran out of her apartment. She took the stairs all two flights down. This was no day for an elevator. Ride those endorphins, Bethany. RIDE THEM RAW.
She bolted out of her building and broke into a running skip down the sidewalk.
“I FLOSSED TODAY!! I FLOSSED MY TEETH!!”
The looks, few.
“I FLOSSED AND STATISTICS SHOW THAT YOU DIDN’T!! I CARE ABOUT MY TEETH AND EVEN MORESO MY GUMS, BITCHES!!”
The looks, gathering steam.
“SORRY ABOUT BITCHES. IT’S JUST THAT…I FLOSSED. IT’S LIKE GOING TO THE GYM FOR YOUR MOUTH. CELEBRATE ME!! HAIL ME!! START CLAPPING!!”
And the neighborhood people did start clapping. They hooted. They hollered. They painted their faces and chests with the white letter B. They quickly strung up decorative lights that looked like a healthy mouth. And the parade was approaching indeed.
“YOU HEAR THAT?! A PARADE! FOR ME AND MY FLOSSED TEETH!!! NEVER A MORE DESERVED CELEBRATION, I SAY!!”
The parade approached slowly. Bethany rested and caught her breath. The neighbors stopped clapping. They waited some. Bethany briefly mimed the flossing motion — -which she knew so well — -to the fruit stand owner as if she was a sage elder reminding her people how a wise habit is performed.
The parade float arrives. The neighborhood folks resume cheering. Bethany hops onto the lead float and take her place atop the molar.
It’s like a dream. The crowds continue to gather. They cheer on their brave neighbor, who dared perform the task that so many of us forget to do or outright choose not to do. They cheer on their sister, and mother, for showing them what true nobility really is. It’s not a crown. It’s a tooth.
The lead float passes under Bethany’s dentist’s office down the main street. If this doesn’t sound like a place to end this story than I don’t know what does. Sure enough, Bethany looks up at Dr. Koll looking down from the window of his office. She holds up two hands pretending to hold floss, the universal sign for “I flossed.” Dr. Koll pulls his mask down and smiles, one tooth twinkling.