The Magic of Crooked Teeth

The W in my teeth is disappearing.

I wear those clear plastic braces that hold and hug your teeth and move them, “a tenth of a millimeter every two weeks,” my dentist said. That reads slow, but for me, it’s lightening. Imperfections in my smile I’ve stared at for years are fading in months.

The W was formed when my front two bottom teeth came in. I remember losing their baby predecessors at the same time in grade school. I can remember what it was like to run my tongue along my gums in the gap where the baby teeth once stood and to discover the slightest ridges when new ones started to come in. During their first days of sunshine, my front two bottom teeth met and reached backward with their inside corners, pushing against each other. From that moment on my four front teeth have formed a W.

No one really notices the W. I don’t even see it in photos. Still I’m aware of it every day – I’ve been rubbing my tongue along that point for 31 years. Since I was little I’ve had the nervous habit of biting the side of my index finger just to see the imprint of it, my own weird little letter.

I actually caught the magical gift of my crooked teeth for the first time in college. There are strange little spaces, tiny triangles they form in their bending. Sometimes when I talk, my tongue, teeth and lips line up just right, and suddenly I see floating in front of me the tiniest little bubble. No one but me has ever caught one, though I’ve pointed it out to a handful of people in these last decades. There floats the bubble while I’m talking to my boss or telling my family about my last trip to Uganda. There it is, the tiny, shining, barely seeable bubble darting around in the tiniest wind of our voices. There it is, a short-lived, nearly microscopic show just for me. There it is, a sweet little bit of humor, a gift, a tiny, tiny shimmering thing, no wider than a millimeter, that hops right out of my mouth thanks to my crooked teeth.

For me, it’s the universe just saying hello. “Remember me,” it says while I’m whining about a difficult work meeting, “I’m out here. The cosmos of atoms and planets and oceans and Birds of Paradise and pizza deliveries and rainbows and books and back scratches and tiny little bubbles made in the tiny little bubble shop of your front teeth. I’m all here. And the bubbles, they’re for you.”

Thanks, universe. Somehow you’ve made me grateful for even my crooked teeth.

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