June’s Toothbrush

by Danny Zawacki

It sounded like a simple thing when she said it to me. So simple that it makes me wonder why I, or anyone, thought in any other way about it given our situation. It was so simple, I just had to give in even though everything I had been taught was screaming to not let her borrow it. Not even once.

June was my first girlfriend out of high school. She had a bubbly spirit I couldn’t get enough of. I just wanted to bask in her presence and do little else with my time. The girls I had dated in high school fell far behind her in every aspect of a relationship. June knew it too, but she didn’t like to hear about it. I always thought that odd, but maybe it’s just an admittance that I really didn’t understand girls. I like to hear that I’m better than whoever came before me. It makes me feel good about myself. It makes me feel like I’ve got a better shot than the last guy. June never looked at it that way even after I tried to explain it to her.

June opened my mind, my body, and my spirit to things I’d never even considered before. She was older than me but she wasn’t experienced as they say so much as she was just comfortable with herself. I liked that about her. I liked that she didn’t want the lights off when we would lay in bed and kiss. I like that she was fine with waking up in the morning and walking around my apartment in her underwear even when I felt the need to be clothed all the time. She’d huddle up against the arm of the couch in her underwear and slowly sip away at her coffee and eat her bagel, sliced with jelly on one side and cream cheese on the other. I’d sit at the table and eat over the plate and drink my coffee while reading the news on my laptop. She didn’t like to talk in the morning and I liked to read the news.

If you met June on the street, you’d think she was an artist of some sort. She had that look to her. You know the kind where the hair is messy and wavy but tied up in some sort of ordered chaos. She wore large scarves and glasses that never sat on her nose quite right. She preferred skirts to pants and t-shirts. But June wasn’t artsy. She was a business owner. She owned a bookshop/coffee-house combination and she ran it with an iron fist pinching pennies to keep her profit margin high. She was ruthless in bringing in customers from other coffee houses. She loathed the chains not because they represented corporate America or that they served over roasted coffee or weren’t free trade. She loathed them because every cup they sold in town was a cup she didn’t sell.

Mine and June’s dating started off slow but picked up pace once we realized we wanted to commit our times to each other. Our schedules synced quite well. She worked while I was in class and I spent my time between classes drinking coffee in her shop. I read the tomes as I did and she always asked me when I was going to buy. I never did, I thought she didn’t care deep down.

Once we entered the relationship–or as I like to tell people, we dove off boats into icy cold water to be with each other because it sounded more dramatic and romantic to me but really it doesn’t make a lot of sense–we rarely had a day apart. Then she started staying at my place on the weekends or I slept at her place. Then weekends merged with the rest of the week and we knew we’d wake up beside each other every morning. The nights were often sleepless because we couldn’t get enough of each other. As I said before, June opened my mind, body, and spirit to new things but I won’t go into detail because I suspect she doesn’t like me talking about her like she doesn’t like me talking about the girls who came before her. Things happened though. It embarrassed me but without hesitation she talked me through things. She knew how she liked to be treated, and she make sure she was treated that way.

Then one day, June turned to me late at night and said, “Can I borrow your toothbrush? I forgot to get a new one for your place.”

This is what took me off guard and I think June could sense it even as the words first fumbled out of my mouth. “I, I don’t…well, I…if you want to.”

“Look,” she said as warmly as humanly possible, “Think about what you just did to me and what I have done to you. Now put it on a scale against sharing a toothbrush. Which one is the lesser of the two?”

That was the simplest thing she could have said to convince me. It worked. I let her use my toothbrush to hold her over until she remembered to bring a new one to leave at my place. I had trouble sleeping that night. Even though I had let her use my toothbrush, I had only done it because that the kind of thing you agree to when you’re in love. I tossed and turned trying to figure out a way to get a new toothbrush before going about my day. The thought of it bothered me. She seemed naturally comfortable with it, as though she had done it before. Had she done it before? How many other guys were using my toothbrush that night? Does it work like that? Maybe the toothpaste cleans it. Yeah, it cleans it. Well, if it does that, then why do I need to ever buy a new toothbrush? Oh, yeah. The bristles wear out.

It went on like that for hours. Come morning I woke from my dozing to the sound of my alarm. I was groggy, to say the least. June slept through the alarm. Good for her, I thought, she doesn’t need to go to class. She can stay with her face pressed into the mattress with the sheets peculiarly covering all of her body but her butt. She sleeps in on her mornings she knows her cover at the coffee shop is competent. I, on the other hand, needed to deal with the dilemma at hand. I needed to brush my teeth. My mind couldn’t force myself outside the door without clean teeth because I knew it wouldn’t be until mid afternoon before I’d get a chance to brush. Of all the days to deal with it, it had to be that day.

I looked at the brush. It was sitting in the cup by the sink like it always did. I couldn’t even tell she had used it. Had she used it before without asking me? It looked clean. It wasn’t dry and there wasn’t a mess of toothpaste. Toothpaste, I thought, must have cleaning properties for toothbrushes just as it cleans our teeth. It has to. I grabbed the brush and the paste and I globbed a far healthier portion of it on there than I ever did.

That ought to clean it, I thought.

I took a deep breath and plunged the brush into my mouth hoping it wouldn’t taste like the stale, bad breath I had never smelled on June but only now assumed was because she left it on the toothbrush.

It was, all things considered, one of the most normal brushes of my life. No pain. No bleeding. No gagging on the minty freshness of the toothpaste. Completely normal. My teeth didn’t feel dirtier than usual.

Before I stepped out of my apartment for class, I went back to my room to let June know I was heading out. I leaned in as I shook her and gave her a kiss.

“You smell nice,” she smiled with her eyes still closed. “You smell nice.”