Even though I'm trying to be positive, I went back to the periodontist today. He's the man who hacked away at my gums, rearranged them, and then sewed them back in new places. I hate him.
It was the kind of trip where you're walking down the street and you meet Angry Spitting Man, and the way you meet him is he hocks one right at your feet while you're waiting for the light to change. In the block or two before Angry Spitting Man storms out of your eyesight, you see him spit three more times, twice at the feet of well-dressed women and once next to a shiny red bicycle.
Then you show up in the dreaded office, the place that made you weep last time because gum surgery is worse than they say it is, and the receptionist is gone, so you sit down, awkwardly, wondering whether anyone will figure out that you're here. You hope they don't. They do.
The dental technician leans you back in your chair and aims the light in your eyes, just like she did the other two times you were there. The light is blinding. Your regular dentist doesn't do this. She knows how to aim the light at your mouth without hitting your eyes.
"Um," you say, "my tongue turned black. Is that normal?"
"Yeah, it's the rinse," she says.
Nobody mentioned that the rinse would make your tongue turn black when they prescribed it.
"It looks better now," she says.
"Yeah, I stopped using the rinse, because I can brush now." You're proud of this, the brushing of your teeth. The novelty of it. How quickly and well you heal.
She gives you a disapproving glare. "You're not supposed to brush! It's too soon to brush. It won't heal properly if you brush. How long have you been brushing?" She has your lip in her hand when she asks you this question. You don't answer. If she wants you to talk to her, she can take her damn hands out of your mouth. And she can move the light out of your eyes.
Nobody told you how long you weren't allowed to brush your teeth when they hacked away at your gums and rearranged them. The light shining in your eyes for an hour and a half. The sound of slicing. One small red dot of blood on the dentist's hands right in front of your eyes. Awareness of exactly what they were doing, even though you couldn't feel a thing. The way they kept going while tears rolled down your temples and into your ears.
She flips off the light and exits the room, leaving you alone leaning back at that awkward turtle-on-its-back position, worrying that you won't heal properly, and they'll have to do it again, not sure that you'd be strong enough, really, to do it all over again. You, who are usually so quiet and mild, swat the light down, away from your eyes, just in case they come back and turn it on again.
The dentist comes in, reaims the light directly in your eyes, and then realizes he's missing the chart. He leaves you again, a blinded turtle trapped in a chair. You hear him ask for your chart. You hear whispering. She's telling on you, about the brushing. Fine.
Nobody told you when you could brush again.
He says your gums look good. They healed quickly. Then he stops. "Candace tells me that you've been brushing. Just the teeth though? Not the gums?"
"Yes," you say, meekness returning, damn it.
"How long have you been brushing?"
"Just a couple of days," you lie. How long? You don't remember. As soon as it didn't hurt. As soon as you could, because of the black tongue and the grossness of not brushing. And because no one told you how long you couldn't brush.
When he's done giving you more specific brushing instructions, he says, "OK, I'll tell your dentist that you healed nicely," and he walks out of the room.
No one tells you that you can leave. No one guides you through the maze and back to the lobby. You just pick up your bag and go. You are in the elevator before anyone can stop you. You keep thinking about the $800 you will pay these people, and you swear as the elevator takes you back to the street that you will never, ever allow anyone to rearrange your gums again as long as you both shall live.