Life is like...
Life is like a very long row of toothpaste tubes. You know how, when you start a new tube of toothpaste, you vow you're going to start squeezing from the bottom? This time, you say, you'll finally have a clean slate. This time, you will have learned from your past mistakes - from all the toothpaste you wasted unused, from the mess and the fuss of taking the thoughtless way out. From the gobs of bright blue that grow encrusted over the tip when you lose the top. From the last bit you can never get out. This time you're experienced. You'll start squeezing this tube from the bottom, keep the tube rolled, follow it carefully up its length as the days tick by. Leave it spent and glowing like an orange rind.
Somehow, though, even if you manage to remember for the first couple of days, for the first week, something goes awry. You forget. You're in a hurry. You wake up hungover and bleary and hardly trust yourself to find any solid object, much less the end. You have houseguests and somebody disregards your carefully laid plans. Scatters them like paperwork in a rainstorm.
By the end, the tube's a crinkled, misused mess. You're disgusted with it. You just want to be over and done with it so you can get on to a new one, so that you can try again to have a shot at a perfect tube of toothpaste. And eventually, even though it is a very long row of toothpaste, you reach a point where suddenly there doesn't seem to be many tubes left at all. Until suddenly, without realizing it, you're brushing your teeth for the last time.
Like as not, you never quite got your toothpaste right. It wasn't the right flavor. It didn't whiten like it said it would. You got cavities anyway. You didn't get it all out. You threw it away and bought a new one just so that you could have a shot at a new beginning. You left it behind, half-used, after the breakup.
Now, of course, it's too late. You remember a thousand tiny regrets. You say at least you've still got your teeth, and after all, isn't that something to be proud of?
Sometimes you wish you'd never brushed your teeth at all, that you were a Neolithic man free of modern notions of dental hygiene. Sometimes the thought of all that toothpaste seems like a horrible and tragic waste. Sometimes you wish you could live it all again, get it right - maybe not perfect, but better. You vow that knowing what you know now, you would have been more careful, or more reckless. You would have tried that new flavor. You would have taken the free sample.
Sometimes you feel youthful and invincible. You say: So we only get so much toothpaste in a life. Well, fine. Fuck it. Squeeze it for all it's worth. Crumple it like tissue. Pound it six ways 'til Sunday. Shoot it for the flavor. Fill your mouth with it to rinse out the sex-and-vodka smell from the night before. Brush until your gums bleed. That time you spend worrying over how to roll it? Throw it out and buy a new one. Run outside and roll in the grass. This is it. You get a certain amount of toothpaste in life. You'll only have teeth for so long. Don't let them fall out all on their own.
Sometimes you think that this would be imprudent. Sometimes you think that you have nothing to lose except your life, and shouldn't you make sure it's a life worth living?
None of this changes the fact that life is a row of toohpaste tubes. You know that in a world of uncertainty and equivocation that this, at least, is true always.