Goodbye Tooth

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I hear the alarm. It makes noise and it disturbs me. I wipe away the crusty stuff from the corner of my eyes and roll over on my right side so I can hit the snooze button with the least amount of movement. I don’t open my eyes and decide I need at least five minutes of undisturbed sleep. It’s early, too early. I can hear the high-pitched wailing of the tea kettle in the kitchen. I am half dreaming. It’s Monday, December 27th. Yesterday, I went to church and the day before that was Christmas. It seems so long ago, even though there’s plenty of holiday evidence in my bedroom.

I get up; I get dressed. I perform my normal wake-up-and-get-ready-for-the-day-routine, except I don’t eat. The stupid teeth people banned me from eating anything after 10 pm last night. Jerks. I don’t think it’s right to starve someone and then rip out their teeth.

I get into the car. I think about how I’m 15 and how I could potentially get my license in less than 3 months. I take a moment to fantasize as I imagine I’m driving in a shiny, new car. I’m listening to the radio and I’m the only one on the road. The car is a hybrid and I’m only getting green lights. Then I realize the only driving I’ve done has taken place my driveway. I’ve been driving up and down my driveway for nine months, and have yet the courage to get out on the road, despite the numerous opportunities. Perhaps this is fate; maybe I’ll never drive. Oh well, at least I’ll be an expert on driving up long, gravel driveways. Hmm, maybe there’s a career there? Probably not. The wave of hope is gone and my mind chooses a new topic.

While in the passenger’s seat I look out my window and take note of the Ozarky landscapes. There’s mostly rocks and trees and grass. I also notice several plastic bags and empty soft drinks at the side of the road. I try to imagine why these people decided to pollute the world instead of waiting for a trash can. I assign each piece of trash to an imagined human and I think about where they’re going, what they’re thinking, and what time of day it is. I can picture it perfectly: Bob, aged 44, just divorced, is a lonely truck truck driver. He imagined he’d have a steady income at this time and a child, maybe two. He had to spend the holidays delivering shipments of macaroni and is wondering what will happen to him. He stopped at a McDonalds around 2 am to refuel. After he’s finished his Big Mac & Coke he’s tossed the trash out window because he knows he won’t be able to stop for 7 more hours and the boss gets mad when the trucks smell like fast food. I’m annoyed with Bob, but I understand where he’s coming from. Still, he could’ve waited. I change my mind; Bob’s a jerk.



We’re here. The door has white letters etched onto the glass in one of those annoying, standard, bold and italicized font. We (my dad’s here, by the way) enter the oral surgery building. Immediately, the vibes I’m getting remind me of the orthodontist, only more serious. My dad walks up to the front desk and receives a clipboard. The whole clipboard deal annoys me. Shouldn’t the doctor people already have our information? Yes is the answer, but they want to make us hate them. We sit down and I notice a bunch of framed photographs of the surgeons. There are about seven photos; they’re all awkwardly smiling. I wonder how old the pictures are and I wonder why they can’t smile normally...They’re oral surgeons, shouldn’t they have perfect teeth?

“Lydia.” The nurse lady looks around and I wait a few seconds before responding. She’s shorter than me. Ha, I think! I like being taller than my elders; it makes me feel superior, but not really. She leads me to a room that looks just like the place where I get checkups except there’s a dentist chair instead of one of those seats with the roll of paper on it...Hmm..what’s that called? I like this chair. It’s comfortable.

My dad is reading something, probably an email, on his BlackBerry while I stare at the posters of all the different procedures there are for fixing teeth. I touch the tooth that will be removed with my tongue and try to imagine what it will be like when it’s gone. It creeps me out that I will be losing a “permanent” tooth. I feel like I’ve been lied to. I don’t like people taking out my teeth. In less than an hour the tooth will be gone. There will be a bloody chunk of stuff in my mouth. The whole surgical process only takes about 15 minutes. I only have 22 teeth. If they wanted to, they could remove all my teeth in 5 and a half hours. My mind is boggled. Then I’d have to get dentures...I wonder what it would be like to have dentures...then I wouldn’t have to brush my teeth. Before I can consider more seriously, the nurse starts talking at me.

The nurse and I make some awkward pre-surgery small talk. It’s not worth writing out the dialogue because you can imagine it better than I could write it. She explains that she’s going to have to inject some anesthesia into my arm to put me to sleep for the tooth extraction, which is just a sugar-coated way of saying, “Oh, yeah, we have to put you to ‘sleep’. It’s part of the procedure. We also have to impale you with a large chunk of metal that we are gong to call a needle.” I’m scared. I’ve never had anything injected through my arm (shots don’t count). Instinctively, I tense up.

“Relax your arm. It will help the needle go through.” DUH! Of course, I know that. I can’t help it. She makes me stick out my left arm and searches for a vein. She keeps pressing my skin trying to make a vein appear. It’s not working. She sticks the needle in anyway. I look away because there’s no way I can handle watching metal pierce my skin. It’s taking more than the standard few seconds it should and I begin feel annoyed. I hide my frustration and stare at nothing, hoping she’ll find the vein.

“Hmm...Earlier I felt the vein, but now I can’t find it...You have small veins.” Oh, yeah, like it’s my fault! You’re the nurse or whatever it’s called. You’re supposed to locate the vein visually and physically (that sounded weird), not just stab it in where ever and hope you hit a vein. This lady is so bogus. Ow, this hurts. What if this needle is dirty? OMG! I’m going to get AIDS or tetanus. My dad is making a weird face. I bet he thinks this lady is dumb, too. After 10 more seconds of needle twisting, she takes out the needle and declares we need to try the other arm. No way, Jose (ho-zay)! I have no choice; reluctantly I roll my the sleeve on my right arm and relax it. Then she instructs me to perform strange bending motions to make the vein pop out. I do what she tells me and it kind of works. I know that my vein is probably hiding from the nurse.

“I found it!” Finally. She tapes the needle to my arm and I’m not allowed to move, otherwise the flow of whatever drug I’m about to be injected with will be disturbed. She walks a few feet to the monitor that controls anesthesia and presses a bunch of buttons in what seems to be a random sequence. She stares at the screen for about 5 seconds; either she’s double checking the settings, has a staring problem, or is an idiot. I’m going to go with the latter.

I try to imagine what it will feel like when I’m put to sleep. I think it will be similar to natural sleep minus the natural part. I can always remember the moments before I go to sleep and waking, but I can never quite place the actual moment where I drift from awake to asleep. I wonder why this is; every night I try pinpoint the moment with no avail. I try to estimate how long it will take for the anesthesia to travel through the tube into my vein. Once it gets in, how long will it take to put me to sleep? Will it be instantaneous or will I gradually get sleepier until *poof* I’m gone? Will I close my eyes? What if I wake up mid-surgery?! I’ve got it! I’ll fight the medicine. Yes, with enough will power and determination I’m sure I can fight the anesthesia. It’ll be simple; I’ll just tell my body to refuse to accept all random incoming drugs. Haha, then the nurse will be annoyed that I’m still at awake and they won’t be able to perform the surgery. This will make a great story.

A minute passes. Two more minutes.

A while later.

It didn’t work. I wake up. I’m alone in the room and there is a wad of gauze where a tooth used to be. It’s bleeding. I swallow the blood. Ew. I’m hungry. I wish I could go back to sleep. A different nurse lady comes in. She helps me put on my coat and directs me to the waiting room outside the door. It’s actually more of a hall with about 8 chairs in a line against the wall. There are a few other patients who look more than a little out of sorts, but they’re older and probably look that like normally. I look down and stare at the ugly carpet for a few minutes. Just as I’m about to doze off, nurse lady comes back with a wheelchair. Apparently, it’s for me. Why the heck do I need this? It’s literally less than 15 feet to the door. Whatever, I think. I’ve never actually sat in a wheelchair and been pushed around (wheelchair races in the sanctuary don’t count). This will be fun. I sit in the wheelchair and pretend I’m super old.
She wheels me to the door, but stops so she can open the door. As she wheels me through the door the car pulls up. The nurse lady opens the car door and I try to get out of the wheel chair, but I can’t. My legs don’t work! I’m all over the place. You’d think that it would be easy to get into a seat, right? Wrong. After I’m finally seated with my seat belt fastened, the nurse lady adds, “This is just one side effect of the anesthesia. It should shouldn’t last long.” Oh, great. It “shouldn’t” last long, just like “it shouldn’t” take that long to find a vein.
My dad asks if I feel ok; I say yes. It’s true, I do feel ok, at least I think I do. I feel really tired and all I want to do is sleep which kind of makes me annoyed because I only have one more week of break left and I don’t want to waste it snoozing. I rest my head against the side of the car window and close my eyes. The gauze in my mouth is heavy with blood and saliva. Suddenly I start crying. For real. Like random, sudden, unexpected tears start to slide down my face. This is strange...I have no reason to cry. It’s like my brain accidentally hit the cry button instead of the sleep switch. Ahh, my brain is glitching. This sucks.
We are home. I am able to make it through the door without falling over. However, as soon as I see my mom, the tears start back up. She gives me a hug and I make some weird sobbing sounds. I stagger through the hallway, avoiding the random crap on the floor. I turn out the light and collapse onto my bed. I hit the alarm button to off; at least I think it’s the alarm button, I’m not really looking. I somehow manage to pull the covers over me.





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