Durham Yoga Company
Twenty baby teeth plus thirty-two permanent is fifty-two teeth a person will have in their lifetime. In two days, it will also be the number of days since we lost you. Time heals, everyone says – before too long, you’ll want to try again. Every one knows that this is bullshit, but they say it anyways. It is something to say. Like, maybe it was better this way – that she died before you got to know her, before you were attached (yes, this is something people actually say). I think instead of how another day has gone by that I could have known you. What does help is distraction. Videos of little kittens, novels where no one dies, the television. Today, on the news, I saw a video of a cheerleader who did a back handspring at half-court, picking up the ball with her feet half way through the gymnastic move, and then making a clean half-court shot – swoosh – through the net. It was quite a shot, even I have to admit, but you know the first thing everyone wonders is if she’ll be able to do it again.
The enamel on your teeth is the hardest part of your body. Harder than your fingernails, even the horny ones on your big toes. Harder than your skull or kneecaps, harder even than the shell that’s grown around your heart. In this way, a tooth is like a cockroach in its insistence to continue despite the odds, to exist far beyond all likelihood, to be the very last thing that survives.
The school busses have started to come around, hurtling down the shady avenues with windows down, the hair of the children streaming, their mouths open and catching the air. I watch them go past my window in the dark morning and again in the afternoon, when the light outside has changed but inside everything is the same: the crib in your room gathering dust, the welcome baby and sympathy cards mixed together on a table by the door, a pot of dead lilies. There is a little girl who gets out at the stop on the corner, she wears high-top sneakers with sequins that flash as she skips to the front door of her house. When I was eight years old, my school bus driver’s name was Mr. Joy, though he never smiled and was clearly the most unhappy person I had ever met. When my mother called him to complain that I was being called names on his bus, he said I should call names back, did she want a list of some I could try? After that, my mother tested me over breakfast. “Chowderhead!” she would yell, pouring my cereal into a bowl. “Asswipe!” I would yell back. I never actually insulted anyone on the bus, but when the girl with the blonde braids slid her clarinet to the edge of her seat so I couldn’t sit down, I would smile to myself and think, “Snotface.”
At my therapist’s suggestion, I have started going to yoga. During the hip stretches, I sometimes just lie down on my mat and cry. No one tries to console me, or tells me to stop. They just go on with their downward dogs and chaturangas, left leg up, low lunge, breathe, breathe, breathe. Their indifference is enormously comforting. Towards the end of class, I feel strong enough to arrange my limbs into a teetering tree pose. Outside the second-floor window, a crew of boys skateboards down Pettigrew Street, their lanky, loose-limbed joy barely contained. One of them kneels on his skateboard, sails through a four-way stop, and is almost hit by a car. When the driver honks his horn, the boy throws his head back and laughs. He doesn’t even look back.