The door bursts open, and he strides in. The toothbrush is put to use and then cleaned, shaken to remove water and returned to the shelf. He chugs a cap of mouthwash as he meticulously ties a tie around his neck, checking himself in the mirror before spitting and confidently walking out. Somewhere far away, a door slams and a car leaves the driveway. A single bead of water runs down the toothbrush’s head.

Eons later in the day, the dark of the bathroom cupboard is disturbed, and the man uses the toothbrush once again. He carefully cleans each tooth, washes the brush carefully once again, and returns it to the shelf. He picks at his teeth with floss sticks and makes silly faces in the mirror, before ambling sleepily away.

This process repeats on a perfect schedule for many months, the only change being an occasional changing of the toothbrush head or cleaning of the shelves. Different flavours of toothpaste grace the shelf every few weeks.

One day, he does not enter the bathroom to clean his teeth. All evening, sounds emanate from around the house; the sounds of two people drinking, and talking, and laughing. But never cleaning their teeth. Eventually, the sounds of two people stumbling into his bedroom disturb the quietening night, and stranger noises can be heard all night. The toothbrush sits lonely and unutilised.

The next morning, the sounds of groggy conversation begin to surface later than usual, and eventually a car drives away. The man sleepily walks into the bathroom and smirks at himself in the mirror, before grasping at the toothbrush and cleaning his teeth as per his usual routine. He is too busy smiling at some untold joke to remember the poor abandoned bottle of mouthwash.

In the evening, when he would normally be brushing his teeth he is instead having a one-sided conversation with his mobile phone somewhere else in the house. As the call ends, he suddenly rushes into the bathroom and grapples the toothbrush. Barely remembering to apply a smattering of toothpaste, he shoves the device into his mouth and jerks it left and right, fumbling with a bottle of cologne in his other hand. Apparently satisfied, he removes the toothbrush and quickly rinses it before leaving it leaning against the wall on the bathroom sink. He winks at himself and the mirror, and points to his own smile in appreciation before sauntering out.

Somewhere in the small hours of the morning, the silence of the house is disturbed as two voices once again clatter about in other regions, before quickly making their way to the bedroom.

This lack of a schedule continues for months. Sometimes the toothbrush goes unused altogether, sometimes it is used at the strangest of times, often shortly before the second voice enters the house. Old toothpaste begins to build up around the base of the toothbrush from when it has not been used properly, and a gum builds up around the cap of the mouthwash, the same bottle having gone unused for months. The same bargain price tube of toothpaste is regularly replaced on the shelf.

Then one day, as the man is brushing his teeth, his phone rings. The woman’s voice has not been heard in the house yet this week, and some slight semblance of a schedule has returned. The man discards the toothbrush, still dirty, in a mug by the sink as he answers the phone, his mouth filled with minty foam. The conversation begins cheery, but soon the man’s face turns dour and concerned. He suddenly cries out, yelling and spraying the mirror with unfulfilled toothpaste. He discards the phone, and looks in the mirror. He absent-mindedly rinses the toothbrush and returns it to the cupboard on its side. White water pools around the toothbrush’s body.

The toothbrush languishes in unused desperation for weeks at a time. Occasionally the man will remove it from the shelf, apply some sorry excuse for a ball of toothpaste, and rub it briefly against his teeth before bursting into tears. After one such occurrence, the man simply discards the toothbrush in the sink and storms off, clutching a bottle of dark liquid in his hand instead. The toothbrush remains in the sink for a number of weeks; the man has long since stopped washing his hands anyway. Every time the man passes the mirror, more and more hair has extruded messily from his face.

One day, weeks later, the man stops and stares at himself in the mirror. He wears a dirty shirt and no trousers, and a bushy beard and knotted mess of hair hides his features. He sighs. A tear falls down his cheek, and his fist clenches and unclenches in quick succession. The toothbrush passively sits in the sink.

He sighs again. He picks up the toothbrush and returns it to the shelf, and picks up a razor. When he returns, his face is clean-shaven and his hair is combed back. He picks up the toothbrush again, and sighs at it, a slight smile on his face. He replaces the head and deposits it in boiling water, rubbing at the abused body. After a short burning bath, he uses the toothbrush once again, and returns the toothbrush to its place on the shelf.

He throws away the bottle of mouthwash. It is eventually replaced, but is used only occasionally.

The old pattern returns, but something is different. Every morning, the man walks quietly into the bathroom, sighs at his empty eyes, and brushes his teeth. He rinses the brush, sometimes, and returns it to its shelf each time. When he returns in the evening he follows the same pattern, watches his reflection, then goes to bed.