This is what I do now that I live on an island alone: Buy Sparkly Fun toothpaste

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When I went to the local Big Save to buy toothpaste and a scented candle, I hoped it would be the only tube of toothpaste I’d have to buy while separated from my wife. That by the time I rolled its end to the front we’d be back together. I studied the options in the shelves and chose the flavor: Sparkly Fun.

I wandered through the tourist aisle and browsed wooden sandal keychains, Hawaii license plates with Aloha, miniature surf boards, post cards with sunsets like the one I watch down the street from the small room I rent on the far west-side of the island. I felt the cloth of surf shirts, plastic fins, foam boogie boards.

I flipped through a book of Hawaiian words. Iniki, in Hawaiian, means sharp and piercing, like the wind or the pangs of love. Iwa is the Hawaiian name for the frigatebird, black and pelican-like, known to be unafraid of stealing from others. These are also the names of two devastating hurricanes that changed the island forever.

At the end of the aisle I chose a candle with a “Clean Linen” scent and its accompanying air-spray. My new housemates smoke and its reek is permanently embedded in all facets of my small room, the lamp shades, the mattress, the curtains, the wooden computer desk, the armchair in the corner.

I need the candle and the air-spray to mask the smoke, but also to lay the foundation of familiarity. My home is no longer my wife’s perfume or the scent of her shampooed hair in the pillow. It’s now clean linen with a hint of smoke, like my shirts and socks fluttering in the dry afternoon breeze along the clothesline in the backyard.

When I wake up in a panic, scrambling across the bed, reaching for someone who is not there, it’s that clean linen scent that returns me to reality. The weight of that reality falls upon my chest again and again each morning. I suffer the small suffocation every time I brush my teeth and roll the end near the front. Each day a reminder and a new pattern being formed. A pattern I don’t want. A reminder I’d rather soon forget.

When I don’t work I surf and when I do neither I watch movies. I rub aloe on my sun burns. I say the Lord’s prayer when I drive home after work. I listen to Drake on repeat, “Just hold on, we’re going home.” I drink beer. I pee dark yellow. My neck always itches. At night I hear waves crash. The roosters never stop crowing.

The next time I go to the store I will buy my third tube of toothpaste. I will no longer be married. I will take my time deciding but eventually I will settle on Sparkly Fun because I hope to find myself in repetition.

The next time you see me I will smell of clean linen and cigarette smoke. My breath will be sparkly fun. I will want to hug you and never let go.

The image above is of the waves I hear at night and in the distance is the forbidden island of Ni’ihau. You can only go if you’re invited by the locals.

12 thoughts on “This is what I do now that I live on an island alone: Buy Sparkly Fun toothpaste

  1. Toothpaste. The scent of a pillow. These things bring us into your world, Ross. You have great tenacity to just “be” in this place. It makes me think of Isaiah 30:15 “In repentance and rest you will be saved/In quietness and trust is your strength.”

  2. This is beautifully crafted prose that allows me into your presence, allows me to glimpse your hurt and hear your tears. Oh, do I wish it weren’t so. Ross, know I hold you close in my thoughts and prayers–may you find rest in His arms.

  3. We are so proud of you, son. You remain transparent and vulnerable and open to a God who comforts and strengthens even in your deepest pain.

  4. I echo what these other friends have said about how brave, honest, and beautifully written this piece is, Ross. Thank you for sharing these words, and allowing us in. Praying God’s peace for you.

  5. I wish I could say something to help your grief and loss – I am so sorry. If I knew your life well enough to think that Fireproof would have something helpful for you I would recommend it, but I can’t say that. However, I am praying for you.

  6. This post seems old but I so relate to it. I also relate to being on the island on which you live. It can be a good place for healing. I hope you are breathing deep and continuing to write. Writing has revived me in my darkened state.

  7. Dial-up hasn’t made it easy to browse my subscribers, whom I appreciate dearly, as much as I’d like. When I saw the blurb about Hawaii last year, I thought it was a short story because I once sent you a postcard in Oregon! I’m sorry if you really underwent a separation. How are you now? My birthday is November 18th! I am in need of light-heartedness and a good time.

    I don’t think my subscribers caught the news: one of our young cats died for no reason (major natural cause). I’m traumatized by it and was astounded not to be inundated with condolences (at my blog, where I’ll see and cherish them). Hearing people understand “cat” = “son&daughter” to me, is very healing. Despite only living 4 years, I want people to know our sweet boy. Along with entertainment, a community is for lifting people up, so I’m reaching out to mine. I’m much better but had to try again because a cricket response hasn’t sat well with me. It might help to explain I WANT to hear from people. My post is here. Gratefully, Carolyn.

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