A Chipped Tooth

06/11/2015 - 8:15am
The tale of a red lollipop and a trip to the Garden of Eden from the dentist's chair.

I suppose it was my fault, most of it anyway. If my time on this Earth has taught me anything it is that nothing bad or good can be completely attributed to one person. Hitler could not have gotten so far with the Holocaust were it not for some gifted Don Drapers in the propaganda department. Jordan could not have won his six rings were it not for Pippen starting at small forward; such is simply the way things are.

It should be noted that the series of events I am preparing to recount are from an early stage in my childhood and could possess more than one historical inaccuracy. Some of the early memories tend to get blurry when I relive them. What I do know for a fact, however, is that Jackie Burnbaum did push me down the stairs, I did break a tooth and I did have an exceptionally profound experience in the dentist's office. Beyond that I suppose much of what will be heard is extrapolation into some of the deepest crevices of my memory. The insight given is surely a result of my exposure to the world beginning long after my little story. After all, everyone is bound to leave that dentist's office at some point whether they are ready or not.

       ***

It was nearing the end of the week at preschool and that could mean only one thing: lollipops. I don't know what it was about those little cavity-inducing sugar balls but the teachers knew that they were our one weakness, our kryptonite. They were, in essence, the ultimate incentive to do right. The daily dosage of monosaccharide at the end of the day was their way to keep us coming back, to let us know what we were missing with poor behavior and we were hooked. If a student had become cognizant of what was happening at that tender age they would have undoubtedly grown to become a fine trafficker of drugs. No one in my class ever did, however, and I, like everyone else, was desperate for my fix. My color was red and everyone knew it. It was seldom talked about as there was nothing to say; I simply got the red lollipop.

Mrs. Boozer was out on this day. Her breath smelled terribly of late and she constantly seemed tired and clumsy; she was always a good time though. Anyway the substitute teacher, Ms. Teetotal, who was much less fun, filled in. She had managed to get us through the day and it was lollipop time. The class was to form a line from shortest to tallest. I, being the tallest in the class, was last in line and ahead of me stood the alarmingly obese Jackie Burnbaum. Jackie had one of those frames that you'd see on a Maury Povich episode documenting 300 pound toddlers who can barely walk. He, by some miracle, could move swiftly and even excel in the kickball matches on the playground. He was nicknamed "bigfoot."

Despite the eagerness of all those ahead of me, the line still seemed to take an eternity. If one had looked in my eyes they would have seen the same eyes with which a soldier might view his home after being away for three years. Each red lollipop inside the box was a close family member while the other colors were friends and more distant relatives. They were a welcome sight. It became difficult to spot the red wrappers as the number of lollipops diminished, yet the possibility that I would not get one never crossed my developing mind. Finally, Big Jackie Burnbaum was up and three lollipops remained: two purple and one red. When the unthinkable happened it didn't even register for a few seconds. I knew that no one, not even Burnbaum would have the audacity to take the one thing in my life for which I cared about more than anything else. My incredulousness was apparently clear when it began to register as Teetotal asked what was wrong. I did not attempt to explain the delicate fabric of preschool life to her as I knew my childish lexicon would do my cause no justice. Instead I took matters into my own hands and snatched the lollipop from Jackie just as it was about to touch his lips and ran. I, being unstuck in time, knew full well what would follow but was not willing to change my course of action in this particular rendition of the event. He followed with the look of a brutish bull never taking its eyes off of the red cape that tantalized it so. As we approached the stairwell I heard him gaining on me yet I refused to turn around. I felt ten chubby little fingers on my back before I could make it to the first step. He really could move so swiftly.  

 Say "ah": A boy in the dentist's chair.    
Dr. Jonathan P. Mayer, DDS. I had read the sign so many times before but this time it felt different; I had a feeling of uneasiness. The weather, which took no note of my personal angst, was utterly exquisite. It was one of those spring days in which it seemed everything had finally come together to create something bigger and more meaningful than nature. The yellow flowers surrounding the sign were especially vibrant. The birds singing their favorite tunes sounded especially graceful. The temperature was such that no one, not even the most unappeasable person could even dare complain. I entered the office knowing full well what was to come yet was not prepared for it in the slightest. The broken tooth was to be shaved down as it always was and would be, and I was to let it happen as I always would. Such things aren't to be altered. (Photo: flickr)
        
My mother and I sat down in the waiting room after checking in with the receptionist. I quickly recognized the familiar tune of “Friend of the Devil” by the Grateful Dead playing in the office. My mother, who I understand was quite the hippie in her day, played the Dead often throughout the house and their sound had become something of a soothing force for me in times of distress; this time was no exception. I sat back in my chair. Expelling all thoughts from my head surrounding the impending procedure, I truly listened to each word of the song for the first time. I was perplexed by how Jerry Garcia could sing of such serious things as death, life in jail and the devil, and make them sound so innocent and beautiful in the way that only Jerry Garcia could. At that moment I wished so much to call Garcia and have him tell me that what was about to happen wasn’t so bad, that it would all be fine in the end, but I couldn't. He had been dead for some time. I was called back to the treatment room.
          
I was not in the room long before the clown-like dentist bopped into the room. He was a lanky old man with stringy white hair and bug eyes. I didn't know why at the time but whenever we would leave his office my mom would tell me she could hear the quacking from the parking lot. I could never find the ducks. Seeing the fear in my eyes, he got right to business. His dental assistant handed him the Novocain and it was quickly running through my gums. Within minutes, the majority of my face was numb and I had no feeling in my lower lip. Oddly enough, however, the broken tooth throbbed worse than ever. When I informed the dentist of my problem he shook his head and told me it was impossible. He proceeded with his preparations and reached for the drill. It was not an exceptionally large drill, on the contrary, it was actually quite tiny. It was powered on and made an innocent buzzing sound. Just as the drill was about to touch my tooth I looked into the mirror that was placed in my hand so that I may watch the procedure. What I saw in the reflection was not me and the drill, however, but rather Adam and the serpent in the Garden of Eden. He was so desperate to cling to his innocence yet the serpent was determined to get its way.
          
What came next can be described only as tremendous, unparalleled pain. It shot through the tooth and radiated through my face and down my neck in what was indubitably less than a second. I knew I was contorting in a horribly ugly way yet had no control over my body. A scream could not even be conjured as what was happening could not be summed up in any one sound.
          
I stepped out of the office yet something had changed. The flowers surrounding the sign were dull and droopy. The birds in the trees let out horribly irritating shrieks without end. I began to sweat from the heat. I got into the car and looked at my temporary filling that was to be crowned the following week. In the corner of the mirror I spotted a small red circle in the back seat. When I turned around I was greeted by the one thing that I knew could always count on, a red lollipop. I tore it from the wrapping and threw it in my mouth as quickly as was humanly possible.
          
It was repugnant. `

author's bio: 
Alex Pressman is a junior at Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School in Plymouth Meeting, Pa.