[Copic markers and pencil on paper. 9 in by 12 in. Illustrated by Katharen Hedges.]
An Ode to Voldemort’s Lover
My dentist tells me, with floss stretched between gloved fingers, that my gums bleed because “I don’t floss often enough,” but I remember flossing just that morning in preparation for the appointment. I remember making my gums bleed across the white porcelain of my sink, across the white stretch of floss between my own fingers. I remember the taste of rust every morning before this.
“Okay,” I say, because he’s a doctor, even if he is a dentist.
“Okay,” he says, and I’m reminded of that book-turned-movie where those kids have cancer and that’s their “word” but now I’m imagining it with dentists instead of cancer patients. Their version of romance would be making gums bleed and suggesting to the people in their chairs that they brush four times a day (once in the morning and once each time after they eat). (I eat throughout the day, sort of whenever I feel like it, but I don’t tell my dentist that).
I’m missing the old place where my teeth used to get clean. In the old place, the completely made-for-kids place, there was a TV in the ceiling and despite being too old for it, I stared at the cartoons that played during the morning and was entranced.
My new dentist is a made-for-adults dentist, and his teeth are too white. A hollow kind of white accompanying a hollow kind of smile. He knows too much about me because my grandma goes to this dentist, too, and she talks about me. He asks me about my trip to Orlando, the one that makes me want to throw up, and I smile and tell him Disneyworld was fun.
Disneyworld wasn’t fun.
Despite lying to my dentist, most of my conscious is clean. Disneyworld is where my ex-best-friend forced me onto rollercoasters that I didn’t know I liked until I stepped in line for Space Mountain. The man behind me and my ex-best-friend was with his two daughters, and he was scared shitless. I was also scared out of my mind, but, you know, less vocal about it.
Because my ex-best-friend was my first, real, legit crush and I was visiting her from across the country and I wasn’t about to cop out of a rollercoaster at Disneyworld (which, she informed me, wasn’t really a rollercoaster at all).
It’s funny, watching a grown man at least forty-years-old, leave his two young daughters to ride such a scary ride like Space Mountain by themselves.
It’s even funnier, when I actually end up liking the mini-rollercoaster and end up hating the girl that rides it with me. I went to Orlando with an undying fear of all things fast and a crush on a girl with blonde hair, and when I left horrible, humid Florida, crying in an unfamiliar airport all by myself at the age of sixteen, I had an undying urge to catch a bus to Worlds of Fun and I hated the girl I’d just spent more than five hundred dollars to visit.
I’d finally figured out the difference between Disneyland and Disneyworld. I’d seen an alligator in the flesh, which, admittedly, wasn’t something I was asking for. And I went through an experience that I’m still getting over.
I don’t just tell my dentist that Orlando was great. My friends at school remember that I’d told them about my trip last May, and when school resumes in August, I’m bombarded with questions I know the answers to, but don’t want to say.
“It was great,” I say. “She’s great. We bonded instantly.”
I tell the truth.
“You were totally catfished,” one friend says, and while she isn’t exactly hitting the nail on the head, she’s partly right. I didn’t know what I was getting into, but after knowing someone for three years, after getting birthday texts at six am, after talking for days on end and using Skype as mostly the only communication, it was easy to believe that I did.
Everyone else forgets about her. I don’t. There are no more six am birthday texts, but when her birthday rolls around, almost six months after the last date in my phone tagged on a text from her, I think about her at six am and wonder if she’s thinking about me. Seven days later, when my birthday is crossed off the calendar, I remember the birthday texts she used to send and wonder if she’s thinking about me.
I’ve forgotten her enough that I can think about her without it hurting. The good friends left call her “Voldemort”.
In the car on the way to work, my phone switches to a song that inadvertently reminds me of her and it doesn’t make my stomach twist. I can think of the song and not her, as floss slips between my teeth. I’ve just eaten breakfast, and as the floss catches the bass of my speakers, my gums don’t bleed.