I have cavities every time I go to the dentist but no one has ever been mad at me for it, no one’s ever said Emily brush your teeth more or Emily stop eating so much candy. If the dentist did say it to my mom, she’s never told me. And it’s only me who gets them–my sisters got sealants but I’m the oldest so I didn’t, same as how they got vaccinated for chicken pox and it didn’t even exist when I was born. I got a couple scabbed dots instead. I’m always first, and it’s always hard. So, I get to have the coconut gel rubbed into my mouth and the big needle raw into my gums and the pressure of the drill. I get to have silver-filled teeth holes. I get to have numb lips for a bit, get to wait an hour before I can eat my McDonald’s, even though Annie gets to eat her nuggets right away. My fries get cold in the bag.
When I tell my friends at school about my cavities they say why and I just think well their dads don’t own video stores with three million kinds of candy in them, so they don’t understand.
And I take good care of my teeth, too, even though they’re crooked. I brush every day. I put Aquafresh or Mentadent on my Reach toothbrush, the one I wanted because of the commercial with the cartoon guy, and I brush everywhere. I use that pink stuff sometimes, too, that neon stuff that clings to the spots you’ve missed.
Mom is always nice to me after I get a filling. She buys us lots of stuff, even though I don’t think we have a lot of money. She’ll get me something small at the store. One time I had to get shots at the doctor and she got me the daughter for our plastic dollhouse. After school some days, she pops the trunk of her maroon Subaru and it’s got dollar store bags. She’s got little things for us, those little fake mini Barbies Annie likes, candy for Molly, and maybe a net for me to catch moths with.
I don’t understand how I can have all these toys, all these little things, but Lunchables are too expensive. Lunch is always turkey on white. Dinner is either fish sticks or Shake ‘n Bake with cling peaches or else it’s a fast food trip –Molly likes McDonald’s, Annie likes Burger King, and I’m the Taco Bell person, and sometimes Mom will go to Thomaston Avenue which has all three, plus she’ll go to the Subway drive thru for a tuna twelve-inch with onions and hot sauce for herself. Those are my favorite nights. Those are the nights where I don’t notice dad is at the store, where I don’t look out the window, into the dark. Those are the nights she fills for us.
Emily Costa teaches freshmen at Southern Connecticut State University, where she received her MFA. Her writing can be found in Hobart, Barrelhouse, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Memoir Mixtapes, and elsewhere. You can follow her on twitter @emilylauracosta.
Artwork by: Orlando Imperatore