The toothbrush stands out like a beacon in my bathroom, right under the Jesus nightlight.
“How long are you going to keep it?” WK asks me, gently. The toothbrush, not the Jesus nightlight. Everyone knows that I’m not about to give up having Jesus light my nights.
“As long as it takes,” I reply curtly, turning away.
We are talking about CJ’s toothbrush in my bathroom, the toothbrush she used to leave at my place back when she would spend the night. I keep it like I am holding out hope that things will become normal again.
As if a toothbrush is a mooring.
Don’t hate me, my dearest friend says when we talk about it, But you brought this on yourself.
I know that there’s that whole part of it, I say, But it’s bigger than just…the “this.” It goes back to when I left last April. My world stopped and no one else’s did.
My friend indicates that she knows that the whole of the mess is greater than the sum of the shattered parts. I can almost hear her soft cluck and I can almost hear the sound of her shaking her curls at me. I love her because she knows this; believes this. Believes that the mess is greater than one day in December.
People change, I think, I changed.
And I did change.
I keep thinking about that change. Playing it over and over in my head. I was playing the changes in me over in my head when I went to meet old friends on Friday.
I met them at a pub near Penn Station–a place I might have once gone with CJ; a place I think I did once go with CJ. We were talking about our formerly fragile lives. Everyone goes through a fragile time, yes, but ours was elevated to the level of crisis. And when crisis comes, people intervene. And when people intervene, one becomes fragile; tiny; baby-bird-like. People stop trusting you to be…emotionally self-sufficient.
I never stopped being that capable, self-sufficient person. But there was a small handful of people who felt they couldn’t drop problems at my feet because my cross was so heavy.
The cross was heavy, yes. But never so heavy that I couldn’t have carried more.
But I’ve changed. And I talked about this with my old friends on Friday. We talked about the process of putting one foot in front of the other; the process of growth and change, and survival.
And I came home that night, alone, and I looked into the bathroom, and I saw the toothbrush.
I realized, when I left New York last April, that people’s priorities change, at a point. I realized when I had to get serious about eating again that I couldn’t be around people whose priorities were parties, or food & beverage, or things that weren’t the things that were going to keep me on the straight-and-narrow.
I realized that I would be living a lie–a lie–if I had come back to New York and picked up where I had left off.
Do you party?
I did. For a time. Partied till the world became a meaningless stream of parties.
So every day, at least twice daily, I pick up my toothbrush, and I brush my teeth, and I put it back in the holder next to hers, and I wait.