Co będzie Twoją przygodą?: In Case of Emergency
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY
Dr. Pirelli has lined all four walls of his waiting room with framed photographs of himself, holding up different kinds of impressively-sized fish by their gills, on board impressively-sized speedboats in what I can only assume are places like Cape Cod and the Florida Keys. I’m the only one waiting, with Rhonda the receptionist’s clipboard of empty forms on my lap, itself waiting to be filled out. It’s been a while since I last visited any dentist, since I last had any type of dental insurance. My previous job, in Japan, didn’t offer such coverage, nor did the toothpaste there offer any fluoride. This resulted in what I learned to call “summer teeth,” as in, summer here and summer there.
I take out my shiny new insurance card to plug in the numbers on the form in front of me, then tick off the medical history list. Diabetes? No. Dementia? None, really. The last page is just one question: Who should we contact in the event of a medical emergency?
As I try to envision what would constitute a medical emergency at the dentist’s office, I am unaware of how exactly I am being tested. Say there were an emergency; maybe Dr. Pirelli’s drill slips while he is daydreaming about the toothy-grinned sharks he’d caught on the Mayan Riviera, and it somehow plants itself into my cerebral cortex. Would I want Rhonda to call my boyfriend Guillermo, or should my Mom in Pennsylvania be the first to bear this unfortunate news?
Before our opulent days of health benefits and dental check-ups, Guillermo and I would pass by Dr. Pirelli’s office every day on the way to and from the L-train. A FAMILY DENTIST, the sign read, somehow corroborated by the cheery, smiling tooth that was drawn underneath and held up a little toothbrush. The only other dentist I ever went to was Dr. Fierstein, two blocks down from the house I grew up in, across the street from my elementary school. It was the same dentist that my parents and siblings went to, the same as my aunts and cousins in the double-house next door to us, and my Grandma across the street.
Edith was one of Dr. Fierstein’s dental hygienists, and the one I would never fail to get stuck with. In high school, I wrote a poem about her, when I was writing angsty shit about people at church and Carrie Underwood billboards:
Edith, my dental hygenist
scrapes at the biscuspids
with silver instruments
and asks about my studies.
Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful”
plays on the soft rock station
and Edith says she, too, writes.
Typing one-page articles
for local hunting magazines
with hopes and dreams
of Field & Stream.
Mouth pried wide open,
I say, “Cool.”
As she polishes incisors,
I think of the time
when Edith told me
she and her husband
don’t have as much sex
as they used to.
And I was, like, fifteen
and unable to respond
with a mouth full of silver
When my Mom found out about Edith discussing her sex life with me, I stopped her from reaching for the phone to call Dr. Fierstein. She told me she never made the complaint, but Edith didn’t say much to me after that, and I certainly couldn’t do all the talking.
Rhonda finally brings me back to Dr. Pirelli’s examination room. It never is the medieval chamber of archaic torture technology I conjure up in my mind all day leading up to my appointment. After some prodding and a few x-rays, I know he’s found something. Five cavities—all on the same side of my mouth—which have everything to do with my fluoride-less year using Japanese toothpaste and nothing to do with the entire week spent eating the chocolate craniums of Easter bunnies while Guillermo was away in Mexico for work. The last time I was told I had a cavity was in Dr. Fierstein’s chair when I was still young enough to play Ms. Pac Man on the arcade machine right next to it during my brother’s turn, and still old enough for my Mom to yell at me for crying upon hearing the terrible truth.
Less than a week later, it’s Guillermo’s turn to come home from Dr. Pirelli’s with bad news and the same free pink toothbrush. His leftover wisdom tooth is dead, and has to be extracted. And when the day comes, when I am walking home from the L-train and stop in front of the office window, I see him in the chair through the Venetian blinds. He’s just been given a shot of Novocain, and he’s nervously pinching his cheek as Pirelli stands in the doorway talking to an assistant. For a moment, I consider knocking lightly on the glass, but then send a quick text message to let him know I’m right outside. He doesn’t see it. And I am in the dark, helpless and alone, save for the only comforting thought that if there ever were an emergency, if our family dentist were to mistakenly extract his handsome face instead of his dead tooth, that at least I would be the first to know about it.
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