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By Susan Weiman
The dentist pointed to his head and explained, "When you hit a certain age, your gums recede just like your hair. This is biology." "If you get an implant, we will give you a flipper."
What the hell is a flipper? Is he going to put a dolphin in my mouth?
That night I dream that my teeth have been replaced by pearls. I open my mouth, they fall, bounce and scatter when they hit the floor. I rush to collect them.
"Date a dentist," advised my hair dresser.
"Brilliant!" Why didn't I think of that?
I imagine Dr. W my former dentist, tall, blond and attractive in a pretty boy way lying in a triple king size bed shaped like a molar.
"Darling, let's play dentist."
I prop my head up on several pillows. He places a lead apron shield on my body.
"Open your mouth. A little wider."
He places a plastic X-ray behind my front tooth.
"Bite! Hold it honey."
"All done Pookie."
He gets back in bed and delivers the good news.
"Yes dear one?"
“You need an implant and I'm going to do the surgery here in our bed!”
A week ago, I met a young woman who had been hit by a cab. She was walking to Starbucks to study for a nursing exam. Boom out of nowhere, she was knocked to the ground. Mouth bleeding, blood gushing, she saw little white bits on the street. She scooped up her teeth and was rushed to the hospital. Nine hours in the ER. They wired her mouth. She was afraid to smile.
“How was your vacation Dr. G?
“Great!” Wish I was still there.”
“Where’d you go?”
“Florida…went to a wedding on the beach. It was amazing.”
“I should have met you there. You could have done the implant by the ocean.”
I imagine resting on a lounge chair on the white sand. Clear blue sky. Dr. G in his bathing trunks. The sun so bright, no need for a lamp.
Dr. G injects 3 shots of Novocain. He and the dental assistant hover over me. She angles the light directly into my eyes. I am bathed in sunlight. As the dentist extracts my tooth, I arch my back, and struggle to maintain the visualization.
After the surgery, Dr. G hands me with the flipper and shows me how to pop this pink plastic piece into my mouth.
“Don’t bite with your front teeth. Take it out at home and let the gum heal."
“So no one can kiss me for the 10 months?”
“Won’t the flipper fall out?”
“No. It will be fine.”
Are you sure?
"It could be worse," I say, trying to comfort myself. I tell him about the young woman who had her teeth knocked out.
“The same thing happened to me when I was younger.”
“I guess it made you a better dentist.”
It changed my life. Made me a better person.”
"A better dentist too,” I repeat, wondering what he was like before.
"Let the gum heal and eat soft food for the next three days.
The next night, I go out with Janet for pizza. I ask the pizza maker, to cut my slice into small pieces, the way they do for kids.
My jaws ache and it is difficult to chew.
“Are you going to eat your crust?” asks Janet.
“Of course I am."
I cut the crust into tiny pieces and slowly devour every last one.
By Thaddeus Rutkowski
My doctor asks if I get tired easily. “Do you fall asleep on the subway?” he asks.
I think back to the last time I fell asleep while riding a subway train. I was coming from Queens to the East Village, and it was late at night. When I woke, I didn’t know where I was. I ran off the train, up the stairs and onto the street. I could have been in another borough. I could have been in a rail yard. I could have been anywhere along New York’s 840 miles of track. But as it turned out, I was only one stop beyond where I wanted to go. Where I woke was only a few blocks from my apartment. I walked home slowly—I was half asleep and in no hurry.
“No,” I say, “I don’t fall asleep on the subway.”
The cause might not be the content on my screen. I might not be going numb from boredom. My brain actually might not be getting enough oxygen
On the other hand, the doctor tells me, I have high blood pressure.