The tooth has been on shaky ground for a couple of days now. I could feel it move back and forth when I pushed on it with my tongue. I was excited about this. Grandma said that children have baby teeth and when those fall out, newer, stronger, better adult teeth would come in. The adult teeth would stay forever. The idea of forever felt good and comforting.
We were in writing class. I was sharing the front desk with Sasha. Sasha’s dad was an international pilot. Sasha had a cool shirt that had buttons at the elbows, so he could button his sleeves in place when he rolled them up. He smoked Kosmos cigarettes and wore high tops from Lida. The teacher sat us at the front desk together because he was bad and I was good. I was to exert my positive influence on him and improve his behavior. Or at least distract him from wanting to behave badly. I had an imaginary arrangement with him where I would tell him when he made spelling errors and he would beat up other boys that tried to give me a hard time by stealing my books, or whatever.
Sasha was busy drawing Fiat logos in his notebook. I was wiggling the tooth back and forth. I pondered how I couldn’t wait to start a new life with new forever-teeth. It was getting closer now, the tooth was barely hanging by its meaty little pendulum. I grabbed hold and pulled slowly feeling it detach and separate with some pain, but total triumph. I lay the bloody prize between Sasha and me, still tasting the faint flavor of iron on my tongue. Sasha’s eyes widened:
Is that a tooth?
Did you just pull it out?
His face lit up with respect. I beamed with self satisfaction, just as the teacher called his name catching us whispering, but oblivious to my feat. He was to read a sentence he just wrote. He got up to speak:
Julie is a cool girl.
The tooth had powers. No self respecting nine year old would voluntarily submit to the humiliation of admitting to like a member of the opposite sex. That was like suicide by getting teased to death. Life of permanence was off to a good start. Me and my future husband Sasha. Things didn’t seem too different at the moment, but at the end of school, I knew we’d be married and be together forever. We’d kiss like grown-ups by mushing our closed lips together, and it would be magical, even though the rest of the future outside our mushed faces looked like a gray blur.
Then, disaster. She was a transfer student from Borisov. She was small with olive skin, big brown eyes and short black hair cut in a bowl shape. Olive skin – that was an exotic coloration we did not see often. It was like seeing an abominable snowman, or accidentally finding a new specie of something, or seeing an exchange student from Africa on a trolley. The classroom was short on desks, so she got seated at ours, facing us. I knew I was in trouble.
Sasha didn’t have to tell me I’d been dumped. He was now drawing Fiat logos for her, and she reciprocated with a shy smile. I felt my heart break into a million little pieces. What a sham. She was not shy. She was a thief. He was now her future husband Sasha.
They are still married now, living in their gray, blurry world, mushing their closed lips together.