Tuesday, October 25, 2005
World's Worst Dental Patient--Part 2
Miss Hygie is done with her tooth polishing gig. The enigmatic X-rays are perched on the little light thingy on the counter, taunting me. I squint at them, telling myself they look perfect.
Little needles are poking at my nerves. I can't stand the waiting much longer. Nervousness itches at me like a cheap shirt. My defensive sarcasm revs, just waiting for the doc to show up.
Speak of the man. The dentist makes his entrance.
I fling on my wise-cracking smile. “Hey, Doc, where ya been? Haven’t seen you forever!” Yuk, yuk, grin, grin, like the guy's my long lost friend.
“Hi, there.” He grins back. “I’ve been right here. Can’t say the same about you.”
This guy knows how to handle me.
Miss Hygie’s backed up in the doorway, watching. I'd swear she still wears a smug expression over her victory with the X-rays.
Doc studies my face. “Your hair’s longer.”
My lips are moving, but I’m thinking diagnosis, diagnosis. I have no idea what’s coming out of my mouth. “So is yours. Hey, looove that spikey gel look. My teenage daughter would think it’s cool. You goin’ through a midlife crisis?”
He shakes his head, looking at my chart. “I’m getting it cut tomorrow.”
“Oh, I think you should leave it. Grow it to your shoulders maybe. Then you’d really look awesome. Like some surfin’ dude down at Santa Cruz.” Yuk-yuk.
He’s leaning toward the X-rays. “Man, you’re hard on a guy. Remind me to never mention hair to you again.”
I barely hear this. I’m watching him study the gray shots of my teeth. “Really, doc, you look good. For a dentist.” My voice wavers a bit. I am definitely losing my momentum.
“Okay.” He turns toward me, picking up his little mirror instrument. “Let’s have a look around.”
He plops in his rolling chair and positions himself behind my head. I open my mouth like the good girl I am. My eyes cut far right. Over on the counter lies a hand-held mirror for patients to use. This is a bad mirror. Very, very bad. The doc will only ask Miss Hygie to hand it to me if he wants to show me something in my mouth. This something is never positive. Hey, look at these perfect snappers! No drill need touch these babies! Oh, no. The mirror is to prove to a patient the horrendously awful state of her most miserable and mucky mouth. Your gums are decaying, your teeth are falling out. Pull out the Big D, or in twenty-four hours your lips will fold inward like dried prunes!
If the doc asks Miss Hygie for this mirror, I am doomed.
He looks around inside my mouth, making those little mm-hm doctor noises. I want to ask what he’s seeing, but my jaw is cracked open, and his hand’s stuck between my choppers. I hang on to the chair handles for dear life, trying my darndest not to think of the Big D. Study the boring white ceiling, thinking doc oughtta have a screen up there with a TV playing just to occupy my mind. Any program would do. Lassie in Japanese. Commercials in Farsi.
Don’t ask for the mirror, don’t ask for the mirror.
Lord, help me, here it comes. Despite my best efforts to the contrary, my mind starts a masochistic, all-five-senses memory of the Big D. The vision of that thick silver needle. The high whine that makes my fingers curl. The jolting pain deep in my brain when it hits a nerve. The feel of little flecks hitting my tongue, the sickening metallic smell . . .
I will not meet the Big D and live to tell about it.
“Uh-huh. Well. Hm.” Doc continues to talk to himself. He rolls away from me for a minute and restudies the X-rays.
Oh, man, oh, man. Please, God, don’t let him ask for the—
He rolls back to my side, glancing at Miss Hygie. “Hand me that mirror, will you please?”
Read Part 3