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It had almost become a mantra for him by now with a total count of repetitions only the Divine could have kept track of.“How did I come to this, “ he wondered again, as he lay in the dentist’s chair for yet another agonizing four-hour session.
He had to take yet another day off from the job he hated (and was lucky to have after his mental breakdown). They resented him for it, he knew. But what choice did he have? He had no insurance. He had destroyed his credit. It would be years before he could pay off his past bills and they would never give him credit for years after that.So here he was, an hour’s drive on the other side of town, at a student dental school. Being viewed under spotlights and with disgust (pity from the kinder ones) by a different student for every procedure. Every procedure took four hours. And this was the third semester. The Novocain injections they gave him hardly blocked the pain. He learned later that long-term users of stimulant drugs often experienced “discomfort.” They couldn’t even clean some of the bottom teeth it was so agonizing. His screams had frightened the other patients. The student and their supervisors agreed. Apparently the years of neglect when he was using had built up so much plaque, it was actually holding those remnants together, permitting him to chew solid food and grin occasionally in public.
Every procedure to remove a tooth, rebuild one, re-cap another, in addition to suggestions of implants and restoration surgery on his jaw bone, terrified him even further. It was tempting to return to that life he had fled. The paranoid whispers pointing out every personal mistake he had ever made, from voices whose source he could never find or identify. Not while he was still up and couldn’t sleep because “they” were talking about him.He almost entertained the victim’s stance. The dentists refused to grant him the comfort and financial simplicity of full dentures. The few scattered teeth he still held on to were “too healthy to remove,” he was told. The pain and the greater expense would be his penance for the mess he had made through his mouth. His “oral skills” would undoubtedly be improved, but that seemed to be part of the past now too. The sexual confidence he had with a regular little toot, or dissolve under his tongue, had left as fast as any trick had when there was no more to be had. Everything he dis-liked about his body, his preferences, how he would be viewed by others, his daily lifestyle and his fears of sharing his hopes, finding a partner who would commit, were now over emphasized. It was like being in high school again, as a terrified, pimply, skinny, geek in love with the star quarter back. All those muscles of self-confidence built after adolescence, overcoming obstacles of lonely formative times had atrophied during the past years of dis-use.
He remembered his first time. He had met someone in a park late at night. He was lonely and horny in those early twenties. They had gone back to the man’s apartment and done a line. He had thought it was coke, which he had done before. These were still his experimental years. Three days later when he hadn’t slept a wink and all he could think about was sex, he knew something else had gone up his nose. The sick thing about it was he hadn’t been that attracted to the guy, but stayed long after dawn continuing to suck a flaccid cock with the hope of some kind of retribution. It was then he knew he had to avoid that substance at all costs. And apparently he was still paying those costs 16 years later.When she finished, the advanced dental student held a mirror before him. She was proud of the work she had done, and he had to give her credit. She was good at what she did. What had been left of his front tooth had appeared on the ex-ray like the scribbling one does when the pen was running out of ink. She had even matched the color of what remained “real” with its coffee and tobacco stains.
“One day, one dependency at a time, “ he reminded himself as he tried to grin at the reflection in the mirror. He was exhausted, somewhat dizzy and wished he still had someone to place him in the passenger seat to fight the rush hour traffic that would take at least that to get him home and a cold martini to wash the pain killer down when the Novocain’s futile effects wore off. He could already feel blood pumping it would not be long before the effects of the twelve needle injections wore off. But when had anyone whom he had taken care of in the last few years done that for him?The woman behind the accounting window, stamped his paperwork with tiredness in her eyes. There were photos of her in a hospital bed holding a newborn and others of what he assumed were the same child and the woman’s husband at birthday parties and other familiar events. She smiled, almost grinning as she pushed them back under the bulletproof glass. Here you, go… Meth-you.”
At least until all the work was done he would not be seen as another toothless tweaker. And it was lucky he couldn’t afford the precious metal to build upon a golden cavity that few would worship.“It’s Matthew, you fucking bitch,” he wanted to say, but then again she had never had the experience to walk in his shoes. She hadn’t walked in public her entire life with a sense that she was being judged as harshly by the majority of people around her, just as harshly as she was judging him now. Somehow, it didn’t make it all right, but it made her comment into something smaller, something more ignorant and more unaware. It almost made it easier for this tired, single, middle-aged, recovering, drug addicted faggot to forgive her… almost.
-Sister Anna Nomice Graffittie’ (for Brother Methew)
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