Of course I’m scared.
I’m scared because I’m human. I’m scared because I don’t know this woman even though she is supposed to be a good at it. Right. I hear that a lot but word on the grapevine is normally worth squat, but you get hopeful that many people can’t be wrong. You trust in the power of precedence. You trust it so much that you are willing to open your mouth to a total stranger. But good sense dictates that you just don’t open your mouth to anybody. You could get hurt. Things could go awry. Murphy’s Law could kick it up a notch. She could make you swallow something alien, something that can make your hair fall off. Or even your teeth. So I lie on this white bed (at least it feels like one) that makes me feel like a sacrificial lamb, like a burnt offering. I act casual. I’m a man. I look around the room. Clean. Spotless. There is a huge window. No curtain, just a white curtain liner. This window overlooks another building. Just the view I was hoping for. Outside is overcast; grey and drippy. It’s May, a month with mood swings. Rain comes down in long silver sheets.
A lady walks into the room. She is skinny, like Angelina Jolie, only she doesn’t have those luscious full lips that can kiss a grown man into a coma. She looks too young to be in this room. Like she needs to be doing her homework. I stare at her cynically, fearfully even and perhaps because she is accustomed to cynicism she confronts me with a demure but very secretive smile. A smile that seems to say, “Your ass is mine ol’ boy!” I don’t smile back because I’m scared. Scared of this tot who is going to screw me. That is a pun.
She throws this white plastic apron on my chest. Ties it on my neck so that it holds firm, then she disappears. I sit there in silence, brooding, sulking a bit but still trying to be a man about it, if that is even remotely possible. I stare at the ceiling. White. Spotless. Apart from this ugly robotic looking machine next to me there is nothing much to look at in the room. Well, apart from my shoes. There is something pathetic about staring at your shoes for too long, especially if they aren’t your favourite shoes to begin with. Talking of shoes, have you ever received a gift from a woman and it turns out that she bought you shoes you wouldn’t wear to a slaughter house? Anyway, I stare at my shoes, they are decent shoes, I like them, but they aren’t my favourite shoes. Nobody in their right minds wear their favourite shoes in this dreadful weather. In this weather you wear shoes for the rain. Or shoes for rainy days if you want. Yes, I like the pun therein… shoes for rainy days.
Hallo Jackson, a voice cuts my pointless shoe reverie.
I twist in my little bed and look behind me…it’s a different lady now. Older, like my mom older. She has this great short hair that reminds me of HairGlo. She smiles broadly, a genuine smile. A smile that reaches her eyes, not like the evil smile of the little tot who had seen me previously. Ordinarily I’m not hot at being called Jackson, I find it frivolous- the name that is, but I forgive her. I forgive her because she has a genuine smile and because she has hair that reminds me of HairGlo. I forgive her because she is my dentist and I’m at her mercy.
What seems to be the problem Jackson? She asks, still wearing that smile.
“My teeth is killing me.” I mumble.
Mmm, let’s have a look.
She pulls up a mask to cover her nose. Here is the sad truth about dentistry; it’s like working in a sewer. You peek down the most horrible of cavities, and you poke and prod through that murk. Sometimes you pull out a tooth and a pulled tooth (a molar or premolar to be precise) is perhaps the ugliest thing you ever saw. Not counting the hyena of course. When you look at a molar removed from your mouth you are stumped at how long the root is. You can’t believe the thing came out of your mouth. You feel violated. Disgusted. But if the sight is ghastly you should see the hole which it leaves in your gum, my God, it looks like a grave!
And so dentistry is a horrid job because you stare at ugly teeth every day, for years! You stare into decaying and unsightly cavities, and at lunch time you throw away your white apron and go out and have a Burger for lunch. In the afternoon you are back, more teeth. More graves. Your life becomes one long teeth. You stare at teeth for so long that when someone says in a conversation, “Why don’t you sink your teeth into the idea,” you feel like biting them.
You have a biiig cavity here, she says prodding my aching tooth. She draws out the “big” on it, making it sound like a small kid would hide in that cavity. Since she has this bright light thingi shining down my face, and she is peering into my mouth like someone would peer down a darkened well to see the level of the water, I find it necessary to shut up.
So we have two options here, she says straightening up and removing her white gloves. We could remove the whole tooth, and give it to you (gee, how kind ma’am, what would I do with it? Make a chain from it and hang it around my neck?) or we could do a root canal.
R-o-o-t c-a-n-a-l Jackson, she repeats.
The word “Root canal” sucks the air from the room. It’s like shouting “bomb!” in a marketplace in Fallujah. I’ve heard gory tales of root canals. People who didn’t speak again after going though one (perhaps from the shock and pain), people who ran mad from it, people who never could bite anything again from that side of the mouth. Root canal is the Osama of all dental practices; feared and revered. I pretended to think about my options. I didn’t want my tooth being chucked, that’s for sure. And root canal also seemed like a glum idea.
This is gonna hurt a bit, she says as she plunges a syringe into my gums. Hurt a bit you say? You think? I get two shots of local anesthesia, and that side of my face promptly starts to feel like Long John Silver’s wooden leg. The skinny girl is to my left now, she is handing her these shiny tools of death that she uses to crack, drill, puncture, dig, grate, saw, plunder, rape and savage my mouth with. Of course I don’t feel a thing, but still it’s my mouth! Plus I have never seen so many instruments disappear in my mouth. There is small tube ticking by the side of my mouth, it gurgles as it sucks stuff from my mouth. It’s gross of course, but try having a toothache at 3am in the night!
There is a whirring sound. She is drilling in my tooth! Yes, she is using this machine to make a hole in my tooth- as if one big hole is not enough! The drilling is loud and if I could say a word edgewise at this point, I would tell her that I’m certain she won’t hit crude oil where she is busy drilling through. This plundering takes about fifteen minutes after which she straightens up to her full height and looks at her handiwork with pride. We are done Jackson, she announces.
I don’t hear her because I fainted.
Root canal is about scrapping off your nerves then filling it with temporary filling. Then two weeks later you go back and they fill it up with permanent filling. People say it’s painful and terrible. It is, when you go to a dodgy dentist in River Road who used to help midwife goats back in Ndaragwa. You don’t want to save 4k when you have a toothache. You will eventually spend more when the dentist from Ndaragwa pulls out the wrong tooth.
Suffice to say I’m not having a swell day, its worse because it’s a Friday and it’s raining. And one side of my face feels heavy, numb and alien, like it belongs to someone’ else. It feels like a plank of wood. No, it feels as if that, uhm, rounded girl in the movie Precious sat on it for three weeks. If that sounds mean, then bite me!… At least you have teeth.