Months ago I walked through the chaotic streets of Kathmandu on Nepali New Year to find it, I paid 100 rupees for it and now its almost out. This is significant, I don’t know exactly why but its some kind of figurehead for a deeper meaning. It wasn’t a special tube of toothpaste, at least not when I bought it. I bought it because it was a good size and looked like it might help clean my teeth. Somehow its become important and I’m not sure why. I think the best place to start is with the story of how the first landmark hygiene product came into my life.
Years ago I came back from my first trip abroad and after a summer working at a YMCA summer camp I didn’t know what to do so naturally I chose to face my biggest fear. I moved to Spokane where I started working a dead-end job and tried to start some sort of life involving friends, work and hobbies. I had this visceral fear of being stuck, of not being able to get out of the system of working to pay for living and living to work. I was 20 but still my fear of the ordinary was very strong. I felt as though it could happen in a second, one second and I’d watch my life run by me on its way to some nursing home. I had two jobs, a few friends and some hobbies but it wasn’t working for me. I moved to Spokane to prove to myself that I could get into the trap and escape it. It was more of a mythic journey for me.
Every morning I’d wake up feeling like my body was mead of mud, like if I stayed in bed soon enough I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between me and the bed. It was my morning routine to wake up and force myself into the shower to listen to a couple songs that might redirect my mood. Each depressed morning shower I told myself that when my shampoo ran out I’d leave. It was my promise to myself, all I had to do was make it to the end of the shampoo bottle and than I would have proved to myself that I could persevere in one of my darkest fears.
I don’t know if that has anything to do with my toothpaste, at any rate it seems this isn’t the first time the significance of running out of hygiene products has come into my life. This time it wakes me up to the quickness of time, the way I can almost blink and be months further along than I had expected.
Here I am one toothpaste tube away from traveling. It’s not totally comfortable how that makes me feel, maybe I should buy another tube, or maybe I shouldn’t put so much important in paste. Although I’m starting to suspect that the importance of paste in my life is going to linger.
Sometimes time is better measured by the use of hygiene products.
How many shampoo bottles has it been since I was clean shaven?
How many rolls of dental floss has it been since I ran a race?
How many sticks of deodorant has it been since I practiced a new hobby?
The strange thing about this particular toothpaste tube is how it makes me feel as if a lot of time has passed. Its woken me up to the fact that I have let little things sleep a little longer than I would like. I haven’t written enough, I haven’t rode a bike in far too long, I haven’t taken enough pictures, I haven’t gotten rid of enough of my stuff, and I haven’t been alone in the woods in longer than I’d like. Today’s date doesn’t make me feel that, reading my journal didn’t do that, watching my shoes fall apart didn’t do that. Its the last few squeezes of toothpaste that reminds me of how limited my life is. Not limited in a sad way, more like the way small packets of candy are called fun sized. Special for the limited nature of it.
Thanks Nepali toothpaste.