Friday, February 5, 2010

Little Thing (2005)

I am always out of rubber bands. I don’t know how that happens, considering I keep every rubber band I ever find and don’t use them often. Big rubber bands are a life essential.
My family used to have an ice-cream container half-filled with rubber bands: it was one of those large plastic gallon containers, probably from mint-chocolate-chip ice-cream. It sat on the shelf in our wrapping-paper closet, and whenever we needed rubber bands we knew where to get them. I don’t know what happened to that bucket, or all the rubber bands, as we couldn’t have possibly used all of them...
Now all I have is this little bag. They aren’t proper rubber bands, either, but are roughly the size of the nail on my pinkie (and this is the nail that gets chewed most frequently). Furthermore, they tend to break. For some reason all the green and pink ones were used up, now all I have are yellow and orange. They have been sitting in my drawer for more than 2 years now, and still I don’t throw them away. Why? I can’t answer that. I don’t use them, except when I come across them and say “Ok, I need to use these up; what can I do with them?” Perhaps I hold onto them to preserve the fond memories they bring to mind... but I don’t think so.
These rubber bands are, in fact, orthodontic elastics, that -- had they been invented at the time -- could be tools ghastly perfect for the art of ancient torture. As one who has experience the braces, I know. Not only were my teeth bound together with wires, I had to wear these rubber bands. I got one packet, with instructions to take them off to eat and not put the same ones back on, which would take me through about 6 a day.
Aside from the fact they killed my teeth and made my tongue long for freedom, they weren’t so bad.
Until they ran out.
It being my luck -- or my lack of luck -- they ran out on the week of Christmas. Whatever day it was, I couldn’t go to the dentist to get new ones. I had to use the same ugly little pink ones all Christmas Eve, all Christmas Day, and the whole day after. Icky, icky, ugh.
After I got my new packet, I used a fourth of it before my jaw was free to move again. I knew I would never wear the rubber bands any more, but I put the little bag in my drawer of odds-and-ends. So far I have used them only in place of larger rubber bands, and regretted it. They are useless now, but still I keep them.

Will this go on forever? No, I’ll lose them one by one, mark my words. The bag doesn’t zip-lock properly, and the rubber bands refuse to disobey the laws of gravity. So now I’m left with only 8.
Oh, I’ll admit it, the rubber bands don’t bring back only painful memories, as not all things about braces are bad. My older sister thought that having braces was ‘cool’ and I got to have my horrid little teeth straightened. Every time I went in to get new wires on my braces I got to change the color of the bands holding the wires to the little metal things glued on my teeth. I had white once, black, red, green -- I guess I picked almost every color.
These rubber bands, obtained later, though they hurt, were almost fun to play with. Mouth-guitars, that’s what they’ll be inventing next. Pick a band, pick the other band -- hey, it’s Twinkle Twinkle! -- it was quite a musical experience.
Ha ha, that reminds me too. I have been biting my nails since I can remember, and they were constantly very short. When I got my braces, I couldn’t get my teeth on my short nails. They had to have grown above the finger before I could mutilate them, and while I waited for them to grow to that very-long length, my ever-present need to do something with my mouth and hands found a new pastime:
I clicked my teeth. Not exactly chomped, mind you, but more like chattered to the tunes in my head. This habit stopped when I got my braces off and could chew my nails, but the nail-biting-frenzy has been decreasing more and more since then.
Just looking at these sleeping rubber bands brings back many bracing memories. It was while I had braces that I took to studying my tongue, marveling at what an interesting thing it is. It was while I had braces I tabooed any sort of mouth medicine because I got sick of the tastes. It was while I had braces that-- ok, enough of that, I had them a year and a half.
Following that I got my retainer, and what a pain that is! Why, the stories I could tell you... but I won’t. The rubber bands are tiring of the light, and want to go back in the safe little drawer with all their useless friends.
Many interesting memories are hidden away in that drawer -- along with many boring ones -- but the braces made such an impact on my life that I will never forget them, nor the little orthodontic elastics.
Can such a thing be set aside without a fond farewell?
Can such a memory hide away and oppress the stories it has to tell?
Is such a memory dead and gone, is such a memory useless?
The answer is that I don’t know, my friends, I can only guess.

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