One Silicone Toothbrush


Transient Intimacy

Volume 8, Issue 02
October 31, 2022

Last November, in a small town in Iowa, I shared a toothbrush with someone who I deeply care about. There was a moment of realization that he had forgotten his toothbrush and so I offered to share mine. It is an entirely silicone toothbrush that can be washed with soap. Carefully, I washed it with dish soap and handed it to him. I ran my fingers and the warm, soapy water between each of the squeaky bristles of silicone. I tried to remove my germs with the right amount of tenderness and elbow grease. This gesture felt incredibly weighted during a time where the pandemic enshrouds every act of physical contact with a cloud of hesitation and carefulness. The fear of virus transmission is very real. I did not want to be the cause of any harm to this person who I hold close.

So, I scrubbed and dried the toothbrush.

The night before our toothbrush exchange, it felt like we were at a sleepover – a video tape rewind to perhaps being young and consumed by staying at another’s home. He took the couch and I took the bed, and I felt a certain sense of warmth as I draped a blanket over him, gave him extra pillows, and asked for one last time if I could take the couch instead. I have never been good with having more space than another person. I think it comes from having grown up in relatively small homes and moving from one place to another so often.

Here, I consider the many fleeting moments that consume our lives and fill them with connection. Really that is what any kind of intimacy of any duration is at its root, right? Connection? And yet, we can connect in so many ways and not truly forge any kind of intimacy. So, in addition to connection, intimacy requires trust. Connection and trust? Do intimacy and love bleed into one another? This feels a little closer. I turn to J. Krishnamurti to consider these thoughts and questions.

J. Krishnamurti, in his book On Relationship, elucidates, “We are asking together: Is love merely a fulfillment of desire? You understand? Desire, we explained very carefully. Is love the pursuit of pleasure? Which is what you all want. And if it is based on remembrance there is a contradiction; it is limited, therefore. It is disastrous in our relationship and therefore we will create a society that is utterly destructive. You see, we are saying love is not desire, love is not the pursuit of pleasure, love is not a remembrance; it is something entirely different, totally different. That sense of love, which one of the factors is compassion, comes only when you begin to understand the whole movement of desire, the whole movement of thought. Then out of that depth of understanding, feeling, a totally different thing called love comes into being. It may not be the thing that we call love. It is totally a different dimension.” [1]

While intimacy can occur without a proclamation of love, is every gesture of intimacy an exultation of love? Is this the kind of love that is “totally a different dimension”? As I handed the toothbrush to this person who I care about, he took it asking what he should do after he brushed with it. And I told him to wash it and dry it too. I could hear him at the kitchen sink scrubbing and moving the toothbrush under water. Tapping its edge on the metal sink, then patting it dry. He gave it back to me. I casually took it back and the moment was over. Shared intimacy concluded. Yet, the feelings that I felt in that moment do linger. To find someone who equally cares in small ways too is not always mirrored. This intentionality might be encompassed in the love that Krishnamurti locates in that “different dimension”. This toothbrush, that I still use, is a portal to this transient intimacy. With its gently curved handle that my hand wraps around, this one silicone toothbrush reveals to me that I am cared for and care for another equally.

[1] Krishnamurti, J. “Ojai, 21 April 1979.” On Relationship, HarperSanFrancisco, 1992.

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Volume 8, Issue 02
October 31, 2022