In Which Crest White Strips Make Me Feel Optimistic About the Future by Lindy Biller


It’s time to take the $40 plunge. A break-up gift to myself. I’m 37, not young and not old, except to people who are older or younger than me. My favorite class to teach is Early Childhood Literature, and my colleagues say it’s starting to get a bit weird, this obsession with Matilda and Charlotte’s Web and Green Eggs and Ham. I don’t even have kids. Probably never will. If I got pregnant now, it would say “Advanced Maternal Age” on my chart, next to “never-smoker” and other lies. When we were together, you used to make two pots of coffee a day, sometimes three. You used to tell me I should bake more and then frown like a disappointed celebrity judge at my sagging cakes and souffles. You used to set out a fruit bowl on the drop-leaf table and stack up your orange peels. I told you I was allergic to citrus and you didn’t give a shit. You told me I should smile more. When we were together, I used to grind my teeth at night, and I never do that. My molars felt like they were hooked up to live wires with each bite of tortilla chip, every spoonful of ice cream. Once, after a particularly bad fight, I could only eat applesauce and mashed potatoes, like my 88-year-old grandma. My favorite literary tooth reference is in The Hobbit, thirty white horses on a red hill—except my horses are palominos, exhausted from all that champing and stamping. At Target, I stand in the toothpaste aisle for twenty minutes, struggling to choose a box of white strips. Gentle White or Glamorous White? Somewhere, you’re peeling clementines for a younger woman who loves oranges and smiles more, and fuck her, and fuck you too. I look at the girl on the box, her perfect nose and pink-grapefruit lips and radioactive smile and the smooth, photoshopped skin around her mouth. The rest of her face is cut off, which makes it easier not to hate her. I choose Glamorous White and I know I’ve made the right call. A girl with teeth like that, she can do anything. She smiles and men collapse in the middle like overbaked souffles, clutching at their eyes.


Lindy Biller grew up in Metro Detroit and now lives in Wisconsin. Her fiction has recently appeared at Bending Genres, Okay Donkey, and SmokeLong Quarterly. She can be found on Twitter at @lindymbiller.

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