Peacocks and pain
I will be posting pieces from Chronicles of Chaos here, along with accompanying music. Enjoy, and remember, there is always an underground.
Dentists are terrifying. They’re up there with clowns, spiders and scorned women when it comes to everyday horrors. I’m convinced anyone who makes a living mining mouths, picking and prodding the face’s exposed bits of bones, is some type of sociopath.
Willy Wonka’s dentist dad screwed him up for life by strapping unnecessary headgear on him at an early age and burning all his Halloween candy so he wouldn’t get cavities. But instead of locking ’em up and reforming them for orally mutilating innocent people, we actually pay to see a dentist in America.
Growing up, I looked forward to visiting the dentist. My teeth were always clean, if not falling out, and my dentist had a treasure chest full of toys to pick from after a successful checkup. The presents weren’t anything fancy but walking out of the dentist’s office blowing on a brand new blue plastic kazoo gave a kid a sense of accomplishment. My mouth passed inspection, my tune said. Next time I could grab myself a mood ring or a temporary skull and crossbones tattoo. Oral hygiene had its perks, I learned at a young age.
I even had an extra baby tooth surgically removed as an eight-year-old, which resulted in stitches and braces for several weeks until the gap in my smile closed. It’s disgusts me now to think that my tender juvenile gums needed to be cut open so a tooth that shouldn’t have been there could be extracted. Retained deciduous teeth are a common occurrence in cats and dogs. Too bad I’m not a polyphyodont. Sharks and crocodiles have all the luck sometimes. But I remember the dentist recommended ice cream as a pain reliever. I can still taste the strawberry milkshake and blood from that first post-surgery meal.
These thoughts came to me before a recent visit to the local dentist. Scheduled for a routine six-month cleaning, the nerves started a couple days beforehand. I found myself standing in front of my bathroom mirror, stretching my lips as wide as possible, in search of problem spots for hours. My gums are receding, and I’m not even 30, I thought. This can’t be good. Wiggling one tooth at a time, I thought about forcibly pulling them out like I do in most of my dreams and opting for dentures. Freud thought dreams about tooth extraction equaled sexual repression. Other mystics believe it has something to do with fear of aging, struggles with acceptance or lack of assertiveness. Or maybe it’s just good old fashioned self-mutilation. Solid foods are overrated anyway, but not all of us are lucky enough to turn into humanoid flies that can vomit stomach acid onto food and don’t need teeth anymore, like Jeff Goldblum in David Cronenberg’s 1986 remake of “The Fly.”
But I bought a new toothbrush in anticipation of my visit, one that supposedly cleans gums and tongues better, according to the marketing blurb on the packaging, and scrubbed my mouth raw for a week. My teeth stayed in their proper places. My gums bled less. Even my tongue looked healthy.
Then it was time to see if any of my efforts made a difference, as the day of reckoning came. I walked the short distance across town from my apartment, as the winter weather made my breath visible along the way. A visit to the dentist isn’t supposed to feel like a death-row shuffle to the electric chair, but I couldn’t help but imagine settling into the padded recliner only to be unexpectedly strapped in and electrocuted. Executioners have found at least 2,000 volts of electricity at 12 amps for 30 seconds will kill a person. Dentists aren’t good with numbers. They judge voltage by how fast a person’s eyeballs fly out of their skull. At least criminal institutions tape the peepers shut.
A deranged dentist with a blood-splattered electric saw would be my last vision before I succumbed to the fatal current. The mad tooth torturer could have their way with me after that, and not only with my mouth. I shuddered at the thought of being molested by my dentist, but I continued toward the office anyway, which is tucked away in a nondescript row of rented storefronts on the first floor of a condo complex. What a perfect place for such a sadist to hide. No one would suspect anything out of the ordinary with an office between a day care and hair spa. The tenants above the office may wonder about the faint smells of burning meat from time to time, but other than that, it’s a great location and place to live.
I walked through the door and into the small waiting room, which featured outdated magazines on a small coffee table and walls covered with tacky posters about the benefits of clean teeth.
I exchanged pleasantries with the lady at the front desk, a zombie of a person who no doubt exchanged her soul for perfectly straight teeth and health insurance. She asked for my name. I thought about giving an alias, as if it would have saved me from the impending face fisting.
“ … Justin.”
“Oh, yes, we have you here,” the zombie with a Crest smile said as she scanned the computer in front of her. “Have a seat, and we’ll call you back when we’re ready.” When they’re ready. They never ask if you are or not.
Would she also have a turn shoving her fingers into my mouth while I lay there unconscious? What does she know? My mind began to race. I picked up a back issue of Sports Illustrated Kids with quarterback Cam Newton on the cover. Now there’s a million-dollar smile. Wonder what he had to go through to get it.
As I daydreamed about Newton’s mouth, a faceless dentist in scrubs called me into the back. We made small talk as she walked me to the chair, but I knew she only wanted to assuage my hesitancy before putting me in a vulnerable position.
I sat and settled into the chair without a second thought, before the dentist leaned it back. The mechanical hum of the torture device straightening out reminded me that such executioners charge up and test the vitality of the electrical current before an execution. Is that what took them so long to call me back?
The cleaning began once I was horizontal. The high-pitched squeal of the apparatus scraping against my teeth gave me goosebumps. I watched for any quick movements out of the corner of my eye. If they were going to knock me out and fondle me, they were going to get a fight first. When the power tool in my mouth hit sensitive spots, I gripped the leather armrests and focused on the flatscreen TV bolted to the ceiling above me.
An image of a colorful peacock in full bloom caught my attention. What a beautiful creature, I thought, but when you associate them with dental duress, they become mocking monsters. Peacocks don’t have to worry about bad teeth or rotting gums as they flaunt about with their skinny necks and butts full of feathers.
I began to envy their beaks. Lying there, I convinced myself that I could survive on a diet of bugs and berries. Somedays I may even catch a newt to nibble on. I’d never have to see a dentist again, I imagined as the screen quickly flashed to another image.
Cute cartoons of molars fighting off blackened troglodytes displayed dental fun facts about tooth plaque and periodontal disease. The molars were big and burly, like body builders, while the cavity critters were gnarled and devious looking. If this was supposed to make children feel better about their little kissers, then dentists have a sicker sense of humor than I initially thought.
Then there were the close-up pictures of mouths. Lying on your back as a stranger operates a dental drill in your mouth, while before and after pictures of crooked smiles and stained teeth are displayed on the screen is some type of torture. It’s like a scene out of “Hostel.” The only thing worse would be a live feed of the cleaning to accompany the coppery taste of blood, which eventually began to collect at the back of my throat. I started to choke, and the urge to cough it up became undeniable. My eyes started to water, and I couldn’t believe these bastards got me right where they wanted me without so much as a flinch.
But before I could throw a punch across my body at the tooth taker’s temple, the faceless dentist shoved a tube at my uvula and sucked up the liquid. I began to breathe easier, but it didn’t end my agony. I waited for an oral fisting, as I continued to focus on the TV above me.
Between the peacocks and chipped teeth, photos of staff would come up every so often. I couldn’t help but look at their perfect grins. The smiles reminded me of the saying that beauty is pain, then a shiver ran through my body as the cleaning apparatus found a nerve ending near my gum line, and I realized you don’t have to be beautiful to experience pain, at least not in the dentist’s chair.
I could feel the tears drying at the corners of my eyes. I adjusted to swallowing my blood and phlegm in short, quick gulps. At a certain point, I gave in and embraced it, almost enjoyed it. Am I a sadist, too? Could I finger a stranger’s mouth, bloody gums and all? How much force does it take to pull out a healthy tooth? The pain and perverted pleasures of a dentist visit are always temporary, but a pretty smile lasts a little longer.
After almost an hour of fondling my mouth, the peacock popped up on the TV again with its colored feathers and toothless black beak. Damn, rainbow goose. Then the pain stopped. Feeling relieved and violated, I checked out with the zombie at the front desk and agreed to return in six months.