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Emily Liz

June 14, 2004 at 3:00 AM

So I got two teeth pulled day before yesterday in preparation for braces. Despite the fact that I was being put to sleep for the procedure, I was still dead nervous. The appointment was at ten-thirty in the morning, and when my mother and I got there, we realized it was English As A Second Language Day at the dentist's. All these Hmong families were spread across the waiting room, eying Mother and I, obviously wondering why we were there, then retreating back to their reading and knitting and chatting.

A receptionist came out with two tiny pills in a Dixie cup. "Can you swallow these?" she asked sweetly. I struggled with the first one for about five minutes. I'm sure it was a hilarious sight; even the receptionist was buckling over in laughter. "You're trying so hard!" she wheezed. I imagine I looked like a newly-caught fish flopping on the dock - eyes bugged out, throat contorting. Finally I got both pills down, and almost five minutes later, Reagan's casket on the TV in the corner started to get a little blurry.

"Mother," I articulated. "Mother, I think I am getting sleepy."

She smiled at me and told me to lay down on the couch. I'm sure the Hmong (especially those that hadn't noticed the receptionist carrying out the pills, or understood what she was saying to me) were wondering even more now. My vision got so dizzy I started to close my eyes. Reagan's funeral liturgies and the Hmong language mixed and intertwined for a few minutes. Finally I opened my eyes again, ready to share a new epiphany with the world.

"Mother," I slurred, very deliberately, "Mother, I would like you to know that my perceptions are very clear right now."

A moment later, I had another divine insight.

"Mother," I slurred. "There are two things in this world that I can look at right now. The lights up there - " I made a weak gesture for the flourescent panels above our heads. " - Or else the painting over there." I nodded toward the awful picture of a glassy-eyed mother holding a misshapen lump. The lump LOOKS like a child, but to tell the truth, nobody really knows what it is. The only reason the painting is there is because the artist is the dentist, and apparently nobody had wanted to offend him when he decided to hang his masterpiece in the waiting room.

When I insisted yet again how clear my perceptions were, Mother helplessly made a polite wave toward the receptionist. This receptionist led me back to the back room, where time and sensations pleasantly mingled and dawdled together.

The dentists all thought I was unconscious or in a fuzzy state of mind, but oh, I fooled them! I heard everything they said, and even understood it. One of them remarked how much I needed "ortho work" done, and the way he said it wasn't very complimentary. "Boy, does this one needs ortho work!" he exclaimed, very distastefully.

"The nerve!" I slurred in my head. I thought about opening my mouth to retaliate, but they were doing that already for me ("how nice!" I thought - "they're actually helping me retaliate") and placing some numb strips on my gum. A moment later, I felt a slight tugging and then a few moments later some gauze-like stuff. And within a matter of thirty seconds, the work was done. I decided to have mercy on the dentist and go to sleep instead.

After a long nap at home, I compared impressions of the appointment with Mother. Apparently the appointment had actually taken about an hour (contrary to my thirty-second impression), I had said things I didn't remember, and I had actually slept through most of the actual dental work, although I had gotten the impression that I had seen and observed it all. Ahh, well. The thing was done, anyway, and it's something I've been fearing since I was a little girl...

But there has been no pain whatsoever today, although it is kind of rotten having to chew with two gaping holes in my jaw.

Anyway, moral of today's story - Getting your teeth pulled isn't a very scary or painful thing to do at all. Playing the violin is the real terror.

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