The skinny long-armed dental lamp loomed over me like the hovering figure of the television character E.T. My chair was tilted back at a most uncomfortable angle, but I didn’t want to be one of those annoying patients who is overly concerned with her own comfort, so I didn’t say anything to the hygienist. She had pricked me with the sharp anesthetic gun two minutes earlier and by this point my whole mouth was numb. “Do you feel anything?” she asked me, pushing and poking at my cheek. “Gogh,” I responded through unfeeling lips. And then she began to drill.
I knew it would hurt a little–it always does–so I let my mind wander. I used to always fall asleep in the dentist’s chair, and I remember that the hygienist would have to say, “Open…open…WAKE UP!!” My eyelids would flutter in surprise, and I’d open up obediently, only to doze off and slacken my jaw thirty seconds later. I never complained, but I also wasn’t a particularly cooperative patient.
This time, my mind began to race as it can only when I am sitting perfectly still for long stretches of time – a rare occurrence in my pseudo-frenetic life. My brain tends to operate at a speed inversely proportional to the pace of my body. When I run, I don’t think about anything; when I sit in the dentist’s chair for two hours, I think about everything.
Well, what do you expect? I was thinking about everything. Soon enough, lying back there nearly completely horizontally on that plastic-covered chair, my eyes began to tear. The tears fell fast and furiously, cascading down my cheeks and landing in my ears. I wasn’ t sobbing – tear-floods but no sigh-tempests – yet the hygienist could not help but notice my distress. “Oh no, we need more anesthesia,” she told her assistant, who prepared another injection. “Gogh, Guy Guy,” I spoke up – my best attempt at “No, I’m fine.” But she couldn’t possibly understand, and I clearly looked miserable. So they pricked me again.
There I was, without language. And lacking language, I had no way to tell the dental team that this was not pain that would be relieved by the novocaine needle. Leave me alone, I wanted to tell them. Anesthesia would not stop Goldengrove from unleaving.
Everywhere else I go, I hold my head high. I can put on an act just as well as everyone else around me – I know we are all part of our own very private masquerades.
But at the dentist’s, I need to be able to let down my guard. This is the place of hurting, and so this is where I go to be in pain. Drug me all you want, but my eyes are not going to stop tearing.
I have a few cavities that won’t be filled for a while. But it’s OK. I’ll be back. I just scheduled another appointment.