The story my sister likes to tell about my birth is that when I popped out, one of my ears got squished, which is why the right one is smaller than the left one by about a centimeter to this day. (I don't know if that's actually the reason.) But my mother says that the first thing she noticed about me was the tiny Cupid's bow of my lips. Precious, she called it, and I don't recall her ever describing anything else with that particular adjective, so I think she really means it. That doesn't mean she didn't laugh at my squished ear, though, the way my sister says she did.
On Teethmas I like to post something I have written. This is a short one about Zeppo, whose real name is Stephen. Remember Zeppo? I am still writing him and his pals. I am also still whining at my therapist about not being able to finish projects, and she is still telling me to get a mentor, and I keep saying HOW DO YOU EVEN and it's all very tiresome. If you happen to know, please tell me how one finds a mentor without entering an MFA program, because I am 581% not entering an MFA program, though I have grudgingly come to acknowledge that Annabel might be onto something with this mentor idea.
But enough of all that! I wrote something!
* * *
I am outside when he comes to me. It’s raining and he is soaked through and his teeth are chattering. Oh Stephen, he says, Stephen, I’m so unhappy, I want to die and the wetness of him is cold when I touch it. You’re so cold, I say. Come inside with me. His tears are hot on my neck.
Inside there is a fireplace and he lets me lead him to a chair and he lets me rub his hair with a towel and he lets me wrap him in a blanket but he still shivers and the tears still run down his face. He watches me untie his shoes and peel his socks off and set them on the warm bricks in front of the fire. He draws his bare feet under the blanket as he watches. His hair is darker because it’s wet.
Why do you feel sorry for me? he asks.
Because I love you, I say. I hate to see you suffer because I love you. I want to be kind to you.
I’m still cold he says and I can see his hands trembling over the blanket. I touch his fingers and they are like marble. He lifts a corner of the blanket and I crawl in beside him and take him in my arms. I can feel him wet and trembling against me and he trembles a little less and a little less until he is still and it’s as if he has dissolved into me and we are a single warm liquid like the tears still hanging from his eyelashes and when I feel a heart beating I can’t tell if it’s his heart or mine.
Are you afraid of me? I ask.
No, he says. Are you afraid of me?
Not of you.
You’re afraid I won’t be enough.
Like the others.
Yes. And if you’re not enough nothing will ever be enough and then what will I do? What will there be for me? I will be empty and starving forever because I’m broken somehow and everything leaks out of me, nothing stays, I’m always hungry.
I’m a monster. A horrible broken thing.
Stephen. I am for you.
The heartbeat is slow and calm like a sleeper’s. He is not afraid. I press my lips against the damp hollow of his eye.
Tell me I’ll be with you always, he says. Tell me I’ll be enough.
I lick the salt from my lips. I say, You will be perfect.
* * *
Now go forth and celebrate Teethmas in the traditional way, by drinking Bombay Sapphire gin and watching the Monster A-Go-Go episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. I'll be at the Metropolitan Museum of Art looking at broken bits of pottery from the Neo-Assyrian period.