Remember the story about poo?
Wasn’t very popular, that one. Not so many unique visitors and what have you, and a shame it was too because the story was nothing if not unique. Sort of explored the blurred boundary between aversion-to-poo and aversion-to-stories-about-poo. Well, this is the follow up, but before you click off, it isn’t about poo.
No, this one’s about pain.
Do try to remember that. It’s about pain. It isn’t pain itself. It can’t hurt you.
It’s about the kind of pain that makes your head feel as if it will snap in two, any second now, under the strain. Probing, living pain that hates you, pounding away at you, grinding away and having a lovely time of it, hurting you and, when it feels as though it hasn’t got quite enough of your attention for a moment, stabbing you, and then carrying on with the grinding.
I’ve been on the sofa for four days, hunched. To K, now, I am merely a curved back. A lumbering mass of need and inutility; in a way I’m surprised she’s noticed.
I am full to capacity with painkillers, antibiotics and wine. I stare at the laptop, not doing anything. A fairly compulsive laptop tapper at the best of times, this toothache has really shifted things up a gear. What did people do before they had screens? I suppose that’s what “the middle distance” and “a fixed point in space” were for.
I should have gone to the dentist about this. About seventeen years ago. But I didn’t.
I didn’t. I was a brave boy; I hunkered down to endure the pain for a few days and then it went away.
“Excellent!”, I remember thinking at the time. “The pain has gone away!”
If the pain had gone away then as far as I was concerned the problem had, and the subsequent thirteen years were to prove me absolutely right, following which the fourteenth year was to prove me absolutely wrong. A flare-up in Dublin a few years ago drove me to dentistry.
And my, hadn’t things changed in the world of tooth doctoring. Gone was the soft spoken and inexplicably sadistic middle-aged man in a little surgery in some residential district. The dusty venetian blinds, the jar of sweets for good children, the musty waiting-room, the dog-eared magazines, the musty receptionist.
What I walked into, on one of Dublin’s main thoroughfares, that morning was unlike anything I had ever known. It was called “Smiles” or “Laughs” or some such and was all chrome and glass from the street, a modern refurb of a grand old building – a former bank I would have thought.
Inside was like a movie set. They’d left the banking hall intact so the decorative ceiling was high overhead and the space was interspersed with marble columns. At ground level though they’d partitioned the place into cubicles; there must have been enough of them for twenty dentists to be on shift.
The dentists, I assumed, were the ones I could see flit from cubicle to cubicle wearing aprons and carrying sinister-looking little dentisty things. Other than that they looked just the same as the clientele who, to a “man”, were mid-twenties, affluent-looking and female. A hairdressers, for teeth.
It was an impression that was very much underscored when, a couple of appointments and many hundreds of euros later, the young “dentist” who I had been dealing with happily informed me that she was unwilling to continue with my root canal therapy, because it would be “complicated”. She gave me a referral letter for a proper dentist and sent me on my way.
The proper dentist proceeded, over the phone that afternoon, to quote me thousands of euros more. Go Celtic Tiger! Whaddya mean, it’ll never last?
All very unsatisfactory, not to mention baffling. On the plus side, after a week or so of codeine and antibiotics, I was no longer in pain.
“Excellent!”, I remember thinking to myself. “The pain has gone away!”
And I was absolutely right. It had gone away.
Until this week. The right side of my face is two inches further away from my nose than it used to be. My right eye won’t open easily. Whenever K passes by and looks at me she flinches, then pats me (gently) on the shoulder or back. Anywhere but the head. Never the head. If she makes the mistake of trying to say something to me, my concentration fails somewhere between the beginning of her sentence and the end.
I’ve been driven back into the awful embrace of the tooth repair sector. I’m afraid my new dentist here may well conform to one or two Hispanic stereotypes. He appears to hold anesthetic, for example, in contempt. The decoration in his waiting area would suggest an enthusiasm for photography, so we might have something to talk about if I weren’t on my back with a mouthful of his instruments.
He’s all cool dude and wham bam thank you mam. Seems to know what he’s doing. Please God let him know what he’s doing.
“So next week you’re doing the root canal, right? Surely I get a jab for that? I mean, you must do that with anesthetic?”
“Well…”, he responds slowly, as if he hadn’t expected the question to arise
“Maybe a bit…”Follow @RobinJGraham