by Phillip E. Dixon

I found the jaw beneath a corner table in the café. The pewter glint of a dental filling caught my eye while I swept. I picked him up and ran my finger lightly across his worn molars, tickling him by accident—he writhed happily at my touch. I should have put him in the bin of forgotten things, but the jaw was lonely and I found myself sliding him into my purse instead.

Our courtship was a ginger affair. I wore him delicately around my collar like a necklace to keep him close, which he enjoyed. His masseter muscles gripped my throat tenderly, keeping him in place as I went about my routines. I laid him on my pillow at night and he nuzzled my hair while I slept. Stubble grew so I shaved him, but it was different from shaving my legs. The angles were peculiar and I navigated the cleft of his chin poorly, cutting him. Blood welled and he drooled with pain. I wept, horrified at what I’d done. I wiped the saliva from his bottom lip and offered my cheek to his incisors, but he didn’t resent me.

In time, I found myself wanting more. So, I slipped out of my lower jaw and picked him up. We both trembled as he settled into place, his medial softly meeting my lateral. My tongue ran over his bottom lip, thrilling me with its fullness.

Finally, we masticated.

We chewed and gnawed, slurping with grace, crafting bolus after bolus in rhythm together. We ate the hottest curries and swallowed the darkest chocolates. Ice cubes melted slowly, trapped inside our gleefully numbed mouth. We crunched pistachios and suckled green tea bags. We gargled and we spit, and every sensation was fresh again.

We spoke new words together, our different lips meeting in unfamiliar parings, stumbling on our first syllables until plosive firecrackers and sibilant cascades shook our quivering face. We cried out and sang, sending spittle waves through the air. We laughed, our mouth a hinge of joy.

Sometimes we clenched, yes, but I always wore him proudly.

Sometimes our teeth ground, but he always jutted his scarred chin with devotion.

I learned to shave him properly, faithfully, so I never noticed the grey in his beard. He was much older than me. While my canines remained sharp, his shattered. Where my bite was deep, his turned shallow. My lips stayed tender and ripe, while his became cankerous and pale.

Eventually, he asked me to unlock him, to free myself, but I refused. I’d never loved him more. We sat in the bedroom together until he fell slack and loose, dangling death from my face.

Yet I am still with him, and he with me.

The stubble is gone now, and his skin has sloughed away. I carved a nick in his barren chin so I won’t forget where his scar used to be. My tongue probes his solitary teeth and the hollow sockets in between. I taste for memories. I try to make what words I can—to tell him that I still love him—but my tongue falls through the bottom of our mouth, dangling listlessly below the cold, naked bone.

Phillip EDixon is a writer, musician, and college English instructor living in Las Vegas. He holds an MFA in Writing from Lindenwood University, and a BA in English Literature from Pacific Lutheran University. He plays guitar and mandolin, speaks poor German, and is definitely stuck in traffic right now. 
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