Songs From a Dentist Chair

Breathe, I kept telling myself.

I could smell burning. And a pungent decay.

My eyes stayed closed for most of the time, as I tried to concentrate on the music flooding my ears: R.E.M., Kathleen Edwards, Sam Roberts, Peter Gabriel, Midge Ure, Matt Good, The Cranberries, The The. Twice, my smartphone stopped the music, inexplicably, and I'd have to wait until there was a pause in the procedure, when I could start the music up and drown out most of the noise.

The drill would sometimes drown out the sound.

No one was there to hold my hand. Even when the dentist would move in close, would unintentionally press her breasts against the top of my head, I felt no comfort.

Sometimes, a hand would rest on my lower lip, push that part of my face against my bottom teeth, as leverage was gained. The inside of my lip, rubbed raw, wouldn't be apparent until the anesthetic wore.

But, while the outside of my face and my gums were numbed, the inside of my poor tooth was not. I felt some discomfort, but no pain, with the first two channels. The nerves in those spots were dead. But the third channel had nerves that were very much alive.

Tears streamed from both eyes as the probes scrubbed inside the canal. I expected the drilling to reach into my brain, and I wished for the end to come swiftly.

And all the while, I had to remind myself to breathe. In, through the nose; out, through the mouth. The smell of burning, made from the drill. The smell of pungent decay, made from my bad tooth.

In, through the nose. Out, through the mouth.

After an hour and a half, I was assured that the worst was over. The tooth had been drained and sanitized. It would now be filled: the old filling, made more than a year ago when a popcorn kernel took almost three-quarters of the tooth, had to be replaced.

I kept my eyes closed, turned the volume up, and lost myself in my music.

And breathed.

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