I cannot believe I am in this chair again. I had successfully evaded this for four years now. But here I am again, the light shining right into my eyes, a small transparent sticker across its middle which said ‘Raise you hand if you feel discomfort”. Huh? I thought to myself, “discomfort” is a blatant understatement. My dentist was a young woman, about my age maybe, her hair neatly tied behind her in a ponytail. Her lips shining with freshly applied lip balm, her brows furrowing in infuriatingly mysterious expressions as she peered into the depths of my mouth and tried to ascertain the root of this excruciating pain which had laid siege over the last two days of my life. She explained each step as she went along, agonizingly patient and too polite. She shoved two pins inside my gums and told me half a dozen times to not close my mouth even as her fingers physically separated them and took what must have been the fifth xray of my mouth. She took the tiny X Ray and handed it over to the senior doctor at the table who looked at it gravely for a minute and said, “This is inconclusive.” Great, I thought, there is an UFO – unidentified fucking obstruction in my mouth which is going to torture me for the rest of my days.
I looked around as she told me to hold on while she figured out her next steps and everything was green. Bright lime green. This onslaught on my eyes warrants an additional painkiller of its own I thought. On this first day here, my dentist had sent me home after a preliminary round of drilling and refilling the cavity which she presumed was the source of my pain only to have me back in the chair the very next morning with pus-filled boils on my gums. It is an infection she concluded. At least, they had named the UFO finally. I felt relief wash over me as she explained to me the next steps except when she said the last line.
We wont be using anesthesia.
My eyes must have popped out of my sockets because then she launched into a long explanation of why. Something about the anesthesia being alkaline and the pus being acidic and she said you don’t want those two reacting inside your mouth. Well that definitely did not sound like the kind of chemistry I wanted in my mouth. And for the next hour or so as she drilled and drained and pinched and poked and scooped out what seemed like the very insides of my being, I swear I saw stars.
When I was a teenager, I could not wait to be an adult. And it is on days like these that I wish to reach into my past and whack my teenage self on the back of her head and whisper raspily into her ears, you have no idea what you are wishing for. Every loved one I told about my tooth problems shook their head gravely and said, tooth pain is the worst kind of pain. That was really helpful I thought. But the hardest part of this entire endeavor was not the pain or the goriness or the fact like my cheek proceeded to swell up like a balloon. the hardest part of this whole experience was that I had to do all of this alone. This was the third time that I have t be very honest regretted the fact that I live away from family. the first was a few weeks ago when I was ill and struggled through the day, the next was when I had chest pain and panicked and took myself to the doctor all by myself and then it was this.
No matter how hard I try there is no way to glamorize this taking care of yourself when you are ill business. There is a desperation and sadness to it that is hard to “rephrase”. And I was feeling caught right in the middle of that. Everything else, I have learned to in fact I enjoy doing alone, shopping, eating out by myself, watching a movie solo. I find it interesting and enticing. So close to my mental image of sitting in a cafe with a book in my hands staring out into space conjuring up my next piece. It all looks so fabulous. But this, nah-uh. There is nothing fabulous about dropping things around and making a mess of yourself and struggling to make it through the day with dignity. So the next time, I saw all my loved ones, I looked at them a minute longer than I usually do and silently in my heart prayed to God that for most of my adult days, I have loving company.