There’s a hole in my head that wasn’t there yesterday.
It’s the hole where a sad, bad tooth used to live. Instead of getting yet another root canal, I had the poor guy pulled. The actual extraction was fine–much easier, less painful, and cheaper than a root canal–but the aftermath is worse than I expected.
I don’t mean the physical pain. My mouth is a little sore, but much less sore than it is after more involved dental work. I mean the funny feeling of this hole in the head, which is bigger and sadder and stranger than I expected. No one will be able to see it, since it’s way in the back of my mouth, and I hope I’ll notice it less once it’s healed. But still. I feel as if I’ve been robbed of my tooth.
This is silly, because of course I gave my dentist permission to take it out. (And I could have taken the tooth home with me, but chose not to because: yuck.) What the feeling reminds me of is my favorite quote from my favorite Katherine Anne Porter story, “Theft”:
In this moment she felt that she had been robbed of an enormous number of valuable things, whether material or intangible: things lost or broken by her own fault, things she had forgotten and left in houses when she moved: books borrowed from her and not returned, journeys she had planned and had not made, words she had waited to hear spoken to her and had not heard, and the words she had meant to answer with; bitter alternatives and intolerable substitutes worse than nothing, and yet inescapable: the long patient suffering of dying friendships and the dark inexplicable death of love–all that she had had, and all that she had missed, were lost together, and were twice lost in this landslide of remembered losses.
As you might guess, this is a passage I loved very much in my early-to-mid twenties. “Words she had waited to hear spoken to her and had not heard, and the words she had meant to answer with” was what most resonated with me then.
Today, it’s the more basic “things lost or broken by her own fault”. Because if I had gone to the dentist regularly for the years that I didn’t have dental insurance, maybe I wouldn’t be spending so much time there now that I do.
So, hang onto your teeth, boys and girls. As my mother wisely says, “You’ll want something to chew with when you’re old.” But also, if you want to take a moment for your own little landslide of remembered losses, that’s okay, too.
I’ll be sitting over here, quietly running my tongue over the place where my tooth used to be.