We Need Toothpaste


We’re almost out of toothpaste. The formerly plump tube is now flattened to .0005mm, almost as thick as the random blonde hair growing between my eyes that every seven months I discover is three feet long and no one told me. I found a half-empty travel size toothpaste under the sink, but how much time does that buy us? If I use Instacart or Amazon, will the workers shopping, packaging, shipping and delivering it be okay? I don’t want them to get sick because I don’t want another fake tooth. But what if we stop using these services? Now they’re part of the 16 million newly unemployed who can’t get access to the flooded unemployment system?

Anyway, Instacart is backed up with orders, so we’re looking at four to five days. Same with Amazon; the travel size toothpaste I found lodged behind my vacationing hair dryer is buying us two days max, three days if I only brush once a day. With my extensive dental history thanks to my easily rotting teeth and sugar addiction, I have to brush two times a day – at least. This isn’t the time to neglect your teeth. Dental emergencies during a respiratory pandemic is not ideal. I don’t like dentists breathing into my mouth and vice versa on a non-coronavirus day.

Normally, when we need toothpaste, I would stop into Walgreens after the gym, but the gym doesn’t exist anymore. And walking into any store right now isn’t easy. My brain goes into mental gymnastics, jumping onto the mental pommel horse before it’s ribbon routine right before hitting the rings: “If you go to Walgreens, tomorrow morning instead of today, and if you get infected while buying toothpaste, and all the clearance Easter candy, let’s be honest, that’ll buy you 48 hours over the churchgoers who got infected going to Easter service yesterday. And maybe that’ll buy you more time for a ventilator to be available. Or shit. Will they have gotten to them first? And if the hospital is out of ventilators and have to use a point system to decide who gets the next one and if I’m up against a young church-going mother who volunteers at a swamped food bank on the weekends when she isn’t at night school while caring for a handicapped husband AND aging parents, even I’m going to say, yeah, roll me into the street.”

I don’t have a mask. We went for a walk, or with social distancing in effect on narrow Chicago sidewalks, more like Frogger, on Saturday in the eerie solitude that used to be Logan Square. With everything closed, Milwaukee Avenue was almost devoid of human life, making my heart hurt. I missed the eclectic 20 somethings. Even dogs being walked looked confused, like, “Dude, where are those hipster kids dressed unironically like Wham band members, vaping while recording Tik Toks? I want my head petted.” When strangers weren’t jumping away from us like scared squirrels or having conversations with friends standing on opposite sides of the street, less than half the people we saw were wearing masks. After five minutes, I hated everyone who wasn’t wearing a mask. And that would include me and my boyfriend.

Do I order paper surgical masks? But that would make me asshole because of the PPE shortage for healthcare and essential workers. How do I make a mask? I can bake, but I’m not crafty. Unless, is fondant a useful barricade against pathogens?

Who has the easiest mask making instructions? A YouTube video? Buzzfeed? Which t-shirt do I sacrifice? A really old one that is as transparent as the pale flesh on my stomach? Or a thicker shirt I don’t like because it’s a scratchy and hot and why would I put that on my face if I can’t stand it against my chest skin? I mean, I think I’ll leave it in place, because death, but what if I forget and pull it down and infect myself and then other people, causing an exponential amount of suffering and carnage? Do I even use a t-shirt or something thicker, like a bath towel or a floor rug?

Am I overthinking this? Can I just tuck my chin into my neck and pull my shirt over my face like an awkward middle schooler? Would people be okay shopping near me in the candy and gum aisle with that set-up? Fuck it, I’ll tie a pair of pajama pants around my face. Easy enough. Wait. What happens when summer hits and it’s 100 and humid? From late June to early September, I don’t like to wear sleeves or denim lower than the bottom of my ass cheeks, let alone a face covering made from one of my sacrificed cat shirts that I say is “so stupid” but I treat like it’s a rare jewel.

And when the vaccine comes, who’s getting that first? Is it getting overnighted to the rich? Am I going to spend months watching celebrities like a contoured Kardashian or a white guy comedian with eye bags and pending sexual assault allegations posting photos of a band-aid on their upper arms and dumb hashtags like #toodle-looCovid-19 or #oneshotformeisoneshotforusall while us plebs have to hide in our homes eating expired canned goods for another year waiting for the drugs to trickle down to us?

And if vaccine distribution isn’t based on wealth and stance, then will it be a lottery like in Contagion? Probably not, because in real America, free lotteries are only used for getting corporate swag like keychains and beer coolies or drafting young men to die in wars, not giving the poor and disadvantaged equality. So, what then? Who filed their taxes first to last? Who voted for whom? Pant sizes? Hair length? Netflix queue? Will they just spray us down with the vaccine using trucks like DDT in the 70s?

Or will the Feds use a value based system? Hoo boy, I’m fucked if that’s so. My personal values align less with typical American values and more with a sloth’s. I dunno, I just like to hang out. Slowly. I’m 37 and recently chose to make less money to be a freelance writer so I can wander around my house asking my cats and unused uterus what they think a good, but funny “think piece” would be.

How much will it cost? Is Johnson & Johnson going to charge $5k a shot? Who can afford that? The demon drugmakers know it’s a gold mine and it’s not like the war profiteer in the White House will stop them. Look what happened to insulin. Congress will try, but Jesus, can anything get done? And speaking of Trump, what fresh hell will be unleashed in the coming weeks and months or, fuck, four more years, thanks to his narcissism and dumbfuckery? As I’m writing this, he’s retweeting #FireFauci, the one guy who knows what’s up, all because Fauci isn’t saying good things about him. How bad will this get? How scared are our representatives knowing that we’re noticing how quickly pollution went away when we stopped the capitalism grind? How gas became affordable while Zoom reigns? Or how quickly our jobs went away? And now that there is indisputable proof the economy is built on the backbone of workers, not the rich assholes gazing down on us from their penthouses, will when the revolution begin? And when will commercials start trying brainwash us back into the “normal way of life” to try and prevent this?

Okay, I found toothpaste. On Amazon. It’ll be here in two days. The sparkling cheesy packaging says it’s probably not effective, like it’s filled with M&Ms and meth, but it’ll do in these “uncertain times”. Uncertain times – there has not been a phrase that makes me gag more. Ever, in any times. It fails to encapsulate the scale of the awfulness of all this. Uncertain times should be trying to decide what’s for dinner, not wondering if we’ll die from a pandemic or if we survive, suffer financial ruin.

Uncertain times. Please. But, that’s my anxiety talking. Maybe we should expect good things? Maybe things will change? Maybe it’ll all be okay?

Shit, we’re almost out of milk.

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