Michael Marano, 129 TCCS
I touched my finger to my nose to remember whether or not I had already washed my face. It slid faster and was greasier than the oiled up milk belly of a drunk on life 6-year-old at the bottom of a slip-n-slide. Grossed out by my own being, I used a bucket to pour water over my face from the trash can that is kindly referred to as my shower and scrubbed with the $1 face wash from the shop next door. Every morning as I dry my feet and try to pat the front of my shirt and pants off with a towel, I tell myself that the next day I will remember to wash my face before putting on all of my clothes. Yet, every morning I still end up going to school looking like a toddler who is trying to graduate from a sippy cup to a big kid cup and failing worse than that one time I went on a date with a girl. Thankfully, I do remember to put my socks on after I am completely done in the bathroom, but mainly because I have to wear sandals to avoid the drain that has been described as “pulsating” by visitors.
One particular morning as I put my socks on I felt a rock inside the sock on my left foot. It was a Monday and I was already annoyed by the oversized, stretched out fit of this sock, and all of my socks, after being washed in Thailand for a year, so this rock in my sock could have been any of the terribly inconvenient situations in Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic” for how frustrated it made me. I took off my sock and shook it around and noticed a leaf on the ground thinking maybe that was what I felt. I put my sock back on and took a few steps feeling the rock slide in between my toes. I heaved my body onto the ground, laid on the floor, ripped the sock off, removed the rock from between my toes, and tossed it on the ground in a dramatic fashion that I would look back on no less than 30 minutes later with an even more theatrical eye roll of self-embarrassment. When I found the rock I was met with a shock that I could have never properly prepared for. The rock was actually a small tooth. A tooth. There was a tooth in my sock.
There were too many questions swirling around my head to even ask one so I decided to deal with it later. I put the tooth in between the pages of a book sitting on my cardboard box nightstand to preserve it as evidence and rode my bike to school not taking on that someone else’s incisor was piercing my foot minutes before. The rest of my morning went relatively smoothly and after 32 ounces of highly caffeinated tea, a few around-the-knee hugs from the preschoolers, and a subtle reminder from the toothless grin of my favorite second grader I was ready to sit down and solve the mystery of the tooth in the sock.
Origin of the Tooth
I immediately assumed that the tooth came from the mouth of my host nephew and tiny housemate Name. Every time I saw him something else had fallen out of his face. I contemplated asking him whether the tooth was his but the thought of him watching me pick his tooth out of my book was so disturbing that I avoided mirrors the next few days in order to hide from the face haunting my nightmares. I decided that it would be easier to rule out the other potential mouths. I could only think of our dog, Bow, or a tooth from one of the pig jaws sprinkled throughout the front lawn. A quick inspection of a pig jaw eliminated it as the source and after many unwanted slobbery swipes of his tongue, I was able to cross Bow off the list as well. The tooth had to be Name’s.
Scene of the Crime
The sock had only been two places since the last time I washed it: the clothesline and in my drawer. Someone could have easily slid the tooth into my sock while it was hanging up to dry but doing it while it was already in the drawer would have been harder to pull off, unless it fell in by accident. It was impossible to figure out so I decided to shift my focus to who would want to put a human beef shredder into my foot’s first and coziest layer of protection.
My first suspect was Name. He was too sweet to do it on purpose, he gives me three-quarters of every stick of gum he is given and brings me drawings to hang around my room every day, but it could have been done by accident. His little brother Apple loves to pull the drawers out of my dresser so Name is constantly wrestling him away, a true angel. It’s possible that Apple hit Name knocking his tooth into a sock in the drawer but I had my doubts. He’s a chill kid but I think I would have noticed a reaction to someone ripping a block of calcified tissue from his gums.
My only other suspect was Theresa, a volunteer who had visited my site on the exact weekend that I washed the sock in question. I FaceTimed her to try to see if she would give anything away but she was either innocent or had been expecting my call. Theresa is the type of friend who will tell you about the ghost living in her house in such extreme detail that you start to notice the ghost living in your own house then scream into the phone making you squeal louder than that time you met the Thai One Direction in the mall . She’s able to put off the thrill of a prank coming to fruition for months just to relish in that delightful moment when her target knows they’ve been hit.
After school I went to the market to sell pork with my host mother. Once things slowed down I decided that I would ask her if she had any clue how a tooth ended up in my sock. I used my best Thai and repeatedly told her, “In the morning, boyfriend at the (points at foot).” In my defense, “boyfriend” and “tooth” kind of sound alike in Thai and I haven’t had to learn the word for sock because every day I find at least 5 socks scattered around my classroom and instead of learning the Thai word it seemed like a good opportunity to teach my students the question, “Who’s sock is this?” in English. After the initial confusion, we continued to play charades with no luck until a customer came to our table inquiring about the cost of pig lungs.
The next day I explained the situation to one of my co-teachers who can speak English. She started laughing and told me that sometimes in Thailand whenever someone loses a tooth from their lower jaw they throw it on the roof because they want their new tooth to grow strong and be pulled towards the old tooth on the roof. So maybe, Name threw his tooth and then it fell off the roof or completely missed the roof and landed in my sock. I had never heard of this tradition before but a tooth on the roof actually seemed normal compared to pretending to be a fairy while sneaking into your child’s room and stealing the bloody tooth you told them to put under their pillow for money.
Later that night after picking the gecko poop off of my sheets and flicking away the tiny beetles on my pillowcases, I settled into bed and thought about all of the information I had gathered. With a law degree earned by watching 9 seasons of Kandi Burruss on Real Housewives of Atlanta investigate, cross-examine, judge, and sentence all within the three seconds it takes her to roll her eyes the verdict seemed pretty clear. I had to believe that Name threw his tooth towards the roof only to have it end up in my sock. With the mystery solved, I turned my face in the opposite direction of the dried, deciduous tooth 10 inches from my head and drifted to sleep. The next morning, not wanting to be responsible for the stunted growth of anyone’s teeth, I removed the tooth from my book and tossed it back onto the roof where it belonged and was destined to anchor the foundation of a bird’s nest or ravage the digestive system of a tokay lizard.
Although I stand firm in my decision, part of me still fears the day, many years down the line, when Theresa asks, “Remember that tooth you found in your sock?”
Read Michael Marano’s other articles Falling in Love in the Peace Corps, A Big Gay Peace Corps Spiritual Journey, One More Time, River Rise, See You Again on the Next Time, Not Taking It On, Love, and An Island Curse.