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Notes & Reflections
The dentist told Luke he had gum disease,
and Luke entered a new era in his life. He spent time and money pursuing oral hygiene. In the master bath he took over his side of the vanity with hardware: water-pick, sonic toothbrush, electric flosser, ergonomic tongue scraper. He outfitted every bathroom in the house with high tech flossing ribbon, antibacterial toothpaste and matching mouth rinse, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and tiny bottles of liquid band-aid for gums.
"This appears obsessive," his wife said, although she noticed for the first time a mild puffiness in her own gums.
"They're my teeth. I'm fond of them," Luke said. "I won't give them up without a struggle."
Morning and night, Luke attended to his mouth. It was during these rituals at the mirror that Luke noticed his hair. He had ordinary, generic hair, growing obediently in a style popular twenty-seven years ago when he graduated from high school. That hair no longer matched his face. He looked like his own father in a teenager's wig, and the image, once seen, was startling, fierce, humiliating.
"I'm a bit dated, would you say?" he mentioned to his wife. This was a Saturday morning in late February.
Trish, busy with the children, refused to look at him. "Is the Mona Lisa dated? Is the Brooklyn Bridge dated?"
Luke observed his wife and discovered that she combed her hair in the same simple way she'd done since they'd met. Trish was a year older than Luke. A surprising matronly-ness had settled over her face and neck. He didn't know when it'd happened. He wanted to ask if it troubled her, but wisely refrained.
As far as he could tell, Trish thrived on black coffee and saltines. She slept five hours a night, waking even during that brief stint to complete online tasks. She taught second grade at the academy where their children attended, and in the evenings she and her best PTA friend organized Longaberger basket parties. Trish judged stroke-and-turn at their son’s swim meets. For their daughter's Girl Scout troop, she maintained the cookie data base. The house was strewn with the debris of her jobs and her projects. An oversized kitchen calendar tracked the complexities of their family schedule.
Luke followed his own Saturday routine. He retreated to the basement where he had a refuge – his recliner, a full-spectrum lamp, several walls of untidy, overstuffed bookcases. He sat there, aware of being alone and despondent. Above him clattered the noise of his family getting ready for another activity. Luke considered a stack of magazines and wondered why he'd spent so many years reading
when it could have been
The Wilson Quarterly
. He'd made it through
, but twice he'd attempted
At last, Trish and the children vacated the house. Luke could not enjoy the silence. He decided to get a haircut and go to the gym.
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