Tuesday, August 17, 2004

From Michelle's Daily Dose for Writers:

Living the middle class life in America, many of us tend to get complacent about physical danger. That complancency is occasionally shaken by some unanticipated event: a mugging, the violent death of someone we know, a natural disaster such as an earthquake or hurricane. 9/11 reminded us all just how imminent and unannounced death can be.

memoir: Write about a time when you or someone you know was in grave physical danger.

I just checked my teeth in the mirror of the green plastic compact I bought at Walgreen's last year when I decided it was time for me to start wearing makeup (I haven't started yet). One of my two front teeth is still slightly chipped. I say 'still' because the other one used to be more chipped, but I had it fixed.

'Grave physical danger' it wasn't. It was one of those stupid accidents that has you second-guessing your self for days: 'If only I'd stood up sooner, or not let the dog jump on me when we were playing, or had the sense to wear a mouth guard, like boxers do.' It happened easily, like chipping teeth were a natural progression in the life of a sheltered urbanite.

Brian and I were living in Chelsea. Not the fun hip Chelsea outside of New York, but rather the seedy/scenic yet chronically unhip Chelsea in-the-near-of-but-virtually-inaccessible-from downtown Boston. We got a dog, Bowie (aka Mr. Boo) because our neighbors had one that we loved and because we both like running our hands over warm furry things with brown limpid pools for eyes and easy, unedited grins. And it was good, most of the time. Mr. Boo (as we call him) was wiggly and full of energy, and bore a disturbing resemblance to one of those flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz. But he was also stronger than me, with a tendency toward misbehaviour ("he's one," I told Brian "he'll grow out of it").

Anyway, one morning, Brian and I were dancing (as me and Brian do, from time to time), and just as I bent over to shimmy at the dog, he (the dog) jumped up to meet me.



My two front teeth were only slightly chipped, but one had a hairline crack that in the ensuing weeks started to widen and shift. One visit to the dentist wasn't enough to repair the damage - ultimately, it took a surprise root canal and a porcelain implant over most of the tooth to make me whole seeming again.

The worst part was when the dentist had to file down my tooth in order to fit me with the implant. For some reason, he felt compelled to give me a glimpse of what I looked like 'before.' The memory of my flushed, anxious face, one tooth filed down to a smooth, un-toothlike nub, still haunts me.

Losing teeth has been a recurring nightmare of mine. For months - years now, actually - the remaining ding on my smile has been a source of mild horror for me - a reminder of the transience of all flesh (mine in particular) and the empty, hollow sound one's vanity makes when struck.


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