My Brush with the Law

On the morning of the Maryland State Bar Exam, allegedly.

I’m unconscious.

There’s a crackling noise first. A rush of strings then follows from behind.

It’s Steve Tyler. And he does NOT want to miss a thing.

This unexpected but ideal wake up song sways and sashays in. The string orchestra comforts, conjuring romantic images: Liv Tyler rolling on the grass, then onto Ben Affleck and then decidedly back to the grass again; Bruce Willis capturing a father’s limitless love in just one look as he sets off courageously through space; and, of course, who can forget the giant asteroid hurtling towards Earth…passionately.

The song is also perfect because Steve Tyler’s voice, a mixture of soul and horrific car crash, both serenades and affords no chance at falling back to sleep.

“I would stay awake, just to hear you breeea—”   I whack my alarm. Alright. It’s time to get up.

I saunter over to the bathroom. Today is the bar exam. No room for dilly or dally. I need to be on top of my game. Quick. Efficient. So, naturally, I pick out the electric toothbrush.

I flick it on and it starts whirring. The noise Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 5.37.24 PMmassages me as I go through the elements of a tort, a term that can still make me giggle. But not today. Today I recognize it for the multiple stab wounds, car wrecks, chemical spills and other tragedies it is and NOT for the adorable French pastry it isn’t.

I’m about halfway through now when the whirring starts to get low, real low–low like a baritone with sad eyes. At first, I assume it’s because I’m somewhere in the molar area. “The molars always deserve a good, deep cleaning,” an uncle must have once said. Maybe the noise is just being muffled back there?

But then the whirring not only drops further in pitch but gets fainter now as well. I panic.

What the hell is happening? About halfway through my brushing, the whirring whirs to a complete stop. Staring into the mirror, I see my own face become horrified. My heart begins to pulse faster. I pull out the toothbrush and try to turn it off, and then on again.


Wait. Maybe if I turn it off for 5 seconds and then try to turn it on.


10 seconds?

Why the hell is this happening? This is the bar exam. Everything planned for this day will come apart at its seams now. And every week planning for this week is part of the greater plan planned for my life. So, really, my life, or at least any life well-lived, hangs on this. And my life is stalling somewhere in the upper left part of my mouth, right in the gap between numbers 14 and 15.

I begin to stare at the toothbrush and plead out loud.

“Please work. You are an electric toothbrush. All you need to do is whir. You are a whirrer. Whir damn you! Seven years of tuition! I CAN’T KEEP EATING THIS INSTANT RAMEN,” I calmly reflect as I look out the window.

And I’m not a screamer. Never have been. “Stop freaking out like a complete pansy,”  Gandhi probably once said and then went on to pass his bar exam.

But he never had to deal with electric toothbrushes.

I stop the histrionics and stare down at the toothbrush in pain. I can’t let go of it.

I grip the damned device. Just grip it. And then stare at myself gripping it. This hurts so much.

Maybe I should have been a doctor.  I’d have dentist friends who would be jealous of me. But then they’d feel so thrilled to introduce me to the best toothbrushes.

“She wears short skirts, I wear T-shirts. She’s cheer captain and I’m on the bleachers, dreaming about the day when you wake up and find, that what you’re looking for, has been here the whole tiiiime.”

What. The. Hell.

All I see is wall and ceiling. I’m in my bed. My heart is still racing.

My god. I look around.  Yes, it’s confirmed. I had a nightmare.

A nightmare about a toothbrush stopping.

As Taylor Swift continues in the background, I think about how fragile we are. About how all our hopes and dreams can hinge on just a few little moments. Something as miniscule as a toothbrush or asteroid can ruin us forever.

I let the song play through. Whack the clock.

I walk to the sink and look in the mirror. I’m out of toothpaste.

I wash my face and head to the bar exam. Botch the torts question.

Pass though.


[illustration by Melissa Danielson]


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