I consider my life while brushing my teeth with the tiny toothbrush my son received from his dentist, and as I’m trying to reach the molars in the back, the wisdom teeth I have yet to have yanked, I focus on the bathroom drawer full of things, and how every drawer and cupboard in our house is full of things, things we don’t need, because we can barely keep our shit together, so what do any of these things matter, anyhow?
I see how it is. We joke with friends about there being something in the water, that we’re going through a time—what a fucking time, we say over drinks. We blame it on the disconnection that happens when you have kids, how they become your focus and fixation over your partner, how, eventually, the kids will become self-sufficient, or at least not so needy, then we’ll come out of this sleepless stupor and be together, just the two of us, and wonder what happened. How the fuck did we get here? we’ll ask. Here being a place where I text about song choices late at night with someone else, where you meet other women—for lunch, for supper, for hikes—and come home in the fog I used to put you in.
Here not being there.
It’s happening, this disconnection. Yet we continue to fill our house with shit, hoping the shit will somehow bandaid our lives back together, that it will cause us to look, really look at each other, instead of at those who have caught our eye, who make us feel things we haven’t felt before, or at least in forever. But here the things are anyway; the implements to cook suppers with that we’ll never eat together, books to read when we can’t sleep because we’re daydreaming about our crush, mugs for the coffee we drink just to keep up with work and kids and exercise and groceries and laundry and whatever else we’ve packed into our lives to stay busy and ignore the reality of it all—the mess.
There are jars of dehydrated fruits and vegetables and herbs stacked in my office, and I often wonder if I’m sucking the air out of our relationship while packing everything into a smaller space, and can you really reconstitute something after it becomes brittle and dry, anyway?
This is what I think about while brushing my teeth with the tiny toothbrush, hours after helping a friend move her things out of a home she’s shared with her husband and kids for more than a decade, and I think about the implements and books and mugs I’d be compelled to take with me, and how none of it matters, but maybe I’d pack it into boxes and haul them into a moving truck only to drive a few blocks away, to clutter up another, less familiar home, a home that is close enough to see my estranged husband’s car in the driveway when I take the kids to school, close enough to hear his music when I’m out walking my dog, smell his soap from the shower as we exchange details of schedules—but far enough from the fighting and discontent and reminder of what we used to be, and I wonder, is it worth it, all these things that clutter up a life, that complicate an exit. And I have an intense urge to throw it all away, the things we’ve amassed and accumulated, like the years of marriage under our belt. To declutter it all, right down to the single, last memory.
Jennifer Todhunter’s stories have appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Necessary Fiction, CHEAP POP, and elsewhere. Her work has been selected for Best Small Fictions and Wigleaf’s Top 50 Very Short Fictions. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Pidgeonholes. Find her at www.foxbane.ca or @JenTod_.