Pretty Girl, Perfect Teeth by Nicole Sellew

Just a regular Friday, I woke up and now I’m driving to the dentist to get my teeth whitened. I don’t particularly care about having white teeth, I think my teeth are fine, but my mom saw my friend Cassie’s teeth and they’re eerily white and shiny like little pearls. So now my mom has it in her head that we have to have white teeth like that. I told her to just spend the money on something else because this is stupid and expensive, but she didn’t listen to me and I guess there must be a part of me that wants perfectly white teeth because here I am telling the overly energetic hygienist that no, the gaps in my front teeth don’t bother me.

When I was thirteen or fourteen, they took my braces off, which would normally be a great thing except when they did mine they ripped off chunks of my teeth. I could see the little white chips stuck to the braces and I asked them about it. At first they said it wasn’t my teeth, but then they called in the head guy, the dentist or orthodontist or whatever, and he said it was only the second time this had ever happened. So pieces of my teeth were gone, and I wasn’t even that unique and special. I feel like orthodontists are all probably paedophiles because they’re constantly dealing with like twelve-year-old kids. Also they’re grifters, but that goes without saying. Either way I’m missing these huge chunks off all my front teeth, and they’re filled in with clay or some shit that’s probably slowly poisoning me.  

The overly peppy hygienist jams some grey rubber device into my mouth and then paints what I think is probably bleach onto my teeth. She says I can watch the Roku TV if I want and I say I’ll just read my book. She smiles a smile that looks painful and says it might be hard to read because of the massive UV light that will be whitening my teeth. I say I’ll just rest then and so she lies me down and I try to relax while my lips are being stretched and a giant humming light beams into my mouth.

After the dentist I get home and check Tinder. I downloaded it yesterday for the first time ever and now, of course, I’m addicted to it. A twenty-four-year-old musician who went to Bowdoin sent me his phone number at one in the morning, a Canadian guy won’t leave me alone, and a brand consultant from a few towns over wants to know “how’s it going pretty girl”, etc., etc. At first it was nice to know that male attention is endlessly renewable, like solar power or trees, but now it’s a little bit stressful to be confronted with both my own desperation and that of the hordes of other people online, some of whom I recognise.

I text the musician and swipe for a little while, then I text my friend to see if we’re still going to the gym. The musician wants to know if we’re hanging out. I’m idly on my computer, looking at things on the internet and playing at finding an internship for the autumn, but I text him back and tell him to come over. I didn’t think it would be so easy to invite strangers to my home, but I barely even thought about it. People you know for a long time end up being just as crazy and awful as most strangers, and they’re allowed to know where you live. The musician lives an hour or so away from me, and he says tomorrow is better for him, but I tell him I’ll be out of town tomorrow so it’s now or never.

He says to give him ten minutes so I edit a cover letter but I’m not really very focused. I’m thinking about how if he does end up coming over, I should probably shower and meditate or something so that I can be more chill. I’m glad all I’ve eaten today is muesli.

About ten minutes later he says he’s coming so I give him my address and then laugh out loud to myself and snap my laptop shut.

I’m sitting at my kitchen table (showered, calm, etcetera) pretending to read, but I’m not at all focused, and then I hear a knock on the door and I smile because there’s something very sweet, or maybe quaint, about knocking on the door when my house is so massive and there’s a doorbell right there. Usually people text “here”, but a knock on the door feels more proper, in a way. I get up and walk to the front door – really I kind of run, but slow down before I’m in Internet Stranger’s sightline – and then I see him through the glass of the front door and he looks normal and not like a murderer but also he’s a little bit shorter than me. I’m not really the kind of person who cares about height – I’m almost six feet tall, so I can’t be – so I give him a big smile and open the door.

“Hey,” I say, and then, “do you often go over to the houses of strange women you meet on the internet?” and he snorts and says, “no, not at all,” and then I walk towards the kitchen and ask him if he wants to split a mango with me. He says yes and so we each stand on opposite sides of the granite island in my kitchen while I use a butter knife to slice up a mango. It’s a slippery fruit, obviously, and I keep fucking up cutting it, but it’s not the worst thing that could be happening in this situation so I just smile and get a plate from the cabinet. I’m starving because it’s 13:00 and all I’ve eaten is a little bit of muesli, so the mango is actually probably a good idea as much as it is a cute and amusing thing to do as a performance for this stranger from online.

We go through the requisite talking about our lives, and I find out that he’s not a complete idiot; he reads books and theory and calls his friends from home “total philistines” and I have to stop myself from calling my friends from home “fucking retarded”. Instead, I say they’re stupid even though I don’t fully believe that, and we both laugh. We talk a little bit about Russian literature which he says he likes and I ask if he knows Turgenev because boys always do and he says yeah, Fathers and Sons, and I laugh and say, “male tendencies”. He asks what I’m reading right now, and I say Murakami and then we talk about Murakami for a while, another author that men love and so do I.

He asks to see my spiral staircase, which is actually the whole reason we’re hanging out in the first place, besides the internet. He said something in his bio about spiral staircases and I messaged him saying I had one and that I would show it to him, which in retrospect probably made me seem insane, but it did get him to drive an hour to come see me, so maybe it was exactly the right thing to do. He doesn’t really say much about it besides “cool”, and I tell him that I’d fallen down it a lot when I was a little kid and that we’re not supposed to wear socks on it and he asks “are shoes okay” and I say yeah, the rule is just so that you don’t crack your head open by slipping in your socks. He seems impressed that it goes up three stories and I tell him he can go all the way to the top if he wants but apparently he’s not interested.

We lean on the wall by the stairs and he tells me about all the Tinder dates he’s been on. I say I downloaded the app two days ago and this is the first time I’m meeting up with someone, “so don’t fuck it up”.

“I should just leave, then,” he says, and I laugh and then I say he can come into my room if he wants. He doesn’t seem like a psycho.

We sit on my bed and talk more and then there’s an awkward silence and I think to myself silence is a form of conversation and I can tell he’s going to kiss me and he does. I climb on top of him and we make out for a little while and then he pulls away and says, “before we get too hot and heavy, like, we should talk about… like, I’ve been tested–” and I say, “condom” and he says, “okay word, cool” and I say, “do you have one” and he says, “yeah” and then kisses me again and this time he asks “can I take your pants off” and I nod and he has a hard time with all the buttons so I climb off him and say, “I’ll make it easy for you” and take them off myself. He says, “word” again. He’s already not wearing pants because when we were talking before, he took off his jeans to show me a tattoo of a pizza slice on his thigh. It was actually kind of a cool tattoo.

He starts to finger me and he says, “fuck you’re sexy” and I wonder if it’s because I’m really wet or if he’s just saying it, and then he climbs off the bed and kneels down and starts biting the inside of my thighs and I can tell he’s going to eat me out and I would be self-conscious but he seems like the kind of guy who’s used to hooking up with girls with major bush so I just let him do it and it actually feels pretty good considering he’s a complete stranger. After a little while he says, “I want to fuck you” and I just nod and he pulls a condom out of his wallet and then frowns at it for a little while so I frown at him and he says, “I just want to make sure there’s no holes in it or anything” and I laugh and then he says it looks fine and he takes off his boxers and puts it on. I try to stare at his dick without seeming like I’m staring at his dick and it’s normal, thank god, and actually kind of big and then he’s climbing on top of me and he says, “you have a beautiful body” and I give a little giggle, kind of involuntarily, and then say, “thank you”. I feel a little insecure about the giggle but then he starts fucking me and he’s lifting up my hips and I can tell he’s not thinking about it and now neither am I.

After a while he asks if he can fuck me from behind and I say, “I’ll be on top” and he says, “okay” so we shift around a little bit and this is usually how I like it but it’s kind of strange because I don’t know him and every time I look at his face I kind of smile to myself because it’s such a strange situation to be in. Eventually he says, “I’d really love to fuck you from behind if that’s okay” and I just say, “yeah” because all men are the same, pretty much, and you have to get fucked from behind eventually so why not now.

He presses me down into the bed and it actually feels pretty good and he’s not aggressive but not gentle either and I breathe heavily while trying not to make any weird noises.

He asks if I want to stand up against the wall and I say, “okay” and then we get up and he laughs and I say, “what” and he says, “it’s just a weird Friday afternoon, is all,” and I laugh and I guess it is kind of a weird Friday afternoon, as these things go.

When he comes, we both kind of laugh and then he asks me if I need anything but I can tell he’s doing it out of a sense of obligation rather than desire so I say, “I’m good” and then I sit on the bed and watch him peel off the condom and look haplessly around my room for a bin.

“Cardboard box in the corner,” I say, and he wraps it in toilet paper and then throws it away and puts his clothes back on and starts asking me questions about my grad school, like we weren’t just fucking.

He tells me to read some essay about the novel and I’ve never heard of it so I write it down on my phone in notes and he spells out the last name of the author for me and then stands up and starts leaning against my wall. I check my phone and look at the time and he asks what time it is and I say almost 14:15 and he nods like that’s about what he expected.

We talk a little more and then I say if he wants we can go again and he says, “I would, but my sex drive is, like, really low, and I probably won’t have sex again for, like, seven months” and I laugh. I find out he’s a smoker and I ask him what he smokes and he says Seven Stars and I say I just bought a pack of American Spirits and then I tell him he doesn’t look like a smoker. He says, “why, because I’m so fit” and I laugh and say, “no, no” which I realise might have come across as cunty and then I ask if he’s on meds and he says no, but he goes to therapy every week and then he starts talking about how American Spirits take fifteen minutes to smoke and I laugh and agree and figure he doesn’t think I’m a cunt and if he does it doesn’t matter, we already had sex.  

He tells me that this was the first time he’s hooked up with someone from the internet and I say, “oh shit” and then I say that I’ve never been on a date with someone I haven’t already slept with, and then I laugh and say, “maybe that’s dysfunctional”. He frowns and seems to think about it and then he says, “no, I don’t think it’s dysfunctional” and I say, “and you go to therapy every week, so you have to be right,” and he laughs. He starts talking about some theorist I’ve never heard of and then my eyes kind of glaze over and he says, “oh my god, you’re like, can this guy get out of my house” and I laugh and say, “no, no” again and then he keeps talking and he says, “what was my point bringing all this up” and then he remembers and says, “so basically, he says our capacity for reading and our capacity for sexual desire are both limitless, so maybe you having sex with people before you get to know them is, like, a way to make it not be so limitless” and I say, “exactly” and then I say it’s like sex is basically the major thing that can happen so once it’s out of the way it takes the pressure off and he laughs and says, “yeah, if you already know, like, it’s gonna be bad, and she’s gonna ask you to go again, and you’re gonna say no, then…” I laugh and so does he and I feel like if I were a different kind of person I would be friends with boys like this. I say, “thanks for not murdering me” and he says, “yeah, nope, not a murderer, just, you know, sex with strangers” and I laugh and say, “that’s your only vice” and he says, “yeah”. He says he’s going to tell his therapist about me and I ask what’s so wrong with him that he needs therapy and he shrugs and says, “not that much”. I guess guys like this are usually pretty in touch with their feelings, or at least they think they are. I wonder if he’s choosing sex with strangers over a true dark night of the soul and then I wonder if maybe I’m doing that, too. I realise I’m staring into space and not reacting to anything so I say, “how strange” in regards to everything, the whole situation, and how I assume we’re both feeling, and he laughs and says, “yeah”.

He says he’s going to go and I nod and stand up. We walk down the spiral stairs and he doesn’t say anything about them.

He’s moving to Vermont and he says if I’m ever there he’ll take me out on a date since we’ve already had sex and I wonder if he really means it. I tell him he’ll probably never see me there and he says, “I don’t blame you” and I think to myself if it breaks when you drop it, it’s an egg and then he says, “it’s nice out here, I’ve never been,” and I nod in agreement and ask if he wants a seltzer for the ride home. He says yeah, he’d love one so I tell him we only have lime and he says that’s fine and then opens it standing a few feet behind me and I close the fridge and then he walks halfway around the kitchen island. It’s a beautiful day outside and my pool is a lurid electric blue and the hydrangeas around it are in full bloom. If it were a different type of thing maybe we would have gone swimming.

“I, um, always feel the need,” he says, “to check in… after things like this… so, like, are we good?” I look at him for a beat and then I laugh and say, “yeah, we’re good,” because I’m a cool girl and there’s no problem with anything at all.

He says, “okay” and I say, “I’ll walk you out” and he says if I hadn’t it would have ruined the whole thing for him, and then he leaves and we say good luck to each other and I walk back into my house and laugh out loud to myself which makes me feel a little crazy but really the crazy thing was having sex with a stranger I met on the internet.

I’m hungry but also I need to pee but also I feel like going in the pool to baptise myself because this was, in a way, a spiritual experience, an induction into a group that I never necessarily thought I would be a part of. I take off all my clothes and get in, and as I submerge my body in the water it occurs to me that things might be very different for me from this point forward.

About The Author

Nicole Sellew is a writer and student currently based in the UK. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College and is currently an MLitt candidate in Creative Writing at the University of St Andrews.

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