Photo by Marco Verch

by Samantha Steiner

issue 74

At six thirty, we push blankets off, pull sweaters on, and shuffle to the bathroom. He squeezes toothpaste onto my brush before getting his own.

“Can we turn the lights off?” I ask.


“The light hurts my eyes.”

He gets the switch. We click our brushes together like champagne glasses and set to work.

This is the part where I’d take a few steps back and then sway forward, shepherding him in circles around the tiny bathroom floor.

He’d look down and say through a mouthful of toothpaste foam, “What is your deal?”

I’d tilt up my chin and gurgle, “You’re my deal.”

Before I can start our ritual game of human bumper cars, he places a hand on the back of my neck. Guides my forehead to his collarbone.  Somewhere under the whiz of his electric toothbrush and the scrub of my manual, his heart thuds against my shoulder.

For this quiet moment, in a fourteen story building a few blocks from Harlem, in an apartment with five sleeping roommates, we are a dark sculpture in a dark chamber. We are an electric-powered Degas exhibit, fused bronze raising brushes to mouths.  Our elbows are the handles of a trophy cup.

In this tiny space before the day begins, before he cozies up to his textbook, before I make my way to the city’s outskirts and a less distracted life, we drift in the hum of our brushes.

Outside, the air is almost minty with fall.  A street sweeper rumbles down the empty road. Together, we study its spinning brushes for as long as we can.