Dentist this afternoon. Three cavities filled, because apparently I've been using powdered sugar as toothpaste. Gotta look into that. I'd canceled my three previously scheduled appointments since I am a huge baby (though in my defense the last time I let the dentist lay hands on me I got dry socket), so I couldn't say a word today when they kept me waiting a solid forty-five minutes before starting.

The exam rooms at my dentist's office aren't divided by walls; they're just small, recessed inlets off of a main walkway. This makes it easier for the staff to step in and out of each patient area quickly, so they can manage multiple appointments at once. It also allows everyone to hear what's going on with everyone else. Drilling, cries of pain, diagnoses of gum disease... It's all very democratic.

Today in the "room" beside mine was an elderly woman, whose face I could see when I turned to my left, which I did exactly once. Scraggly grey hair, clean-faced, threadbare cardigan. She had a dreamy, faraway smile that suggested nitrous, but it was clear from the encouraging words of her companion (who I could hear sitting at her feet) that she wasn't high. Just not there, exactly. Alzheimer's perhaps, or dementia? I don't know. The middle-aged male voice - which kept calling her Drea and telling her how brave she was -  had a patronizing quality and an unnecessary loudness that set my already-nervous teeth on edge. I wondered whether there wasn't some part of Drea, still perfectly lucid, that hoped he would shut the hell up.

With nothing else to do, I texted Terence a play-by-play. He just said, "She likes to smile, and she likes to chew, too! Doesn't she? DON'T YOU, DREA?"

Jesus, said Terence. Plot twist: he's actually in the chair in a dress talking about himself. 

Now he asked the dentist and assistant if they mind if he takes a picture of them working on her. WTF. He's talking to her like she's four and promising her a Starbucks cookie and I want to cry. 

Poor Terence, who was probably waiting for my own work to start so he could take a nap, didn't know what to say. It's like a bad show and you can't change the channel. 

I feel awful for her, I said, adding a frown. She's terrified, I said, though I had no way of knowing if that was true. Then I repeated the mantra I'd been saying all day, to stave off my dental visit dread: Joshua Tree, Bonnaroo, Lake Burton. Joshua Tree, Bonnaroo, Lake Burton. Joshua Tree...


My fillings were surprisingly quick and painless, and I was on the train back downtown within forty minutes. I absolutely hate having my face numb, though, so as soon I got home I Googled ways to dispel the anesthetic faster. One site said increased blood flow helps, as from exercise. But I hadn't eaten anything so a run was out of the question. I threw some soup on the stove and edited photos from the weekend while I waited. When the soup was hot, I poured myself a steaming bowl and retreated into a big, cozy chair. But when I tried to blow on the soup to cool it, the muscles around my mouth just bunched up stiffly; I was still too numb. Panic crept in. What if something's wrong? What if they made a terrible mistake and my face is stuck like this forever? I slurped a spoonful of soup and the slackness of my jaw was unbearable. Exactly how a stroke victim would feel, I realized.

I knew everything would come back to me, if I just waited a little bit longer. I'm still waiting, though. Poking my cheek with my tongue, grimacing and puckering and getting quizzical looks from Chaucer.

We could probably both use a run.