You can’t tell unless you look closely, but half of my front tooth is a filling. Each time something happens and it breaks off, I think the break will look a little more apparent after the dentist goes in a fixes it, but, every time, I’m proven wrong and it blends in just like it used to. Surprising, yes, but true. At least I can’t tell when I look in the mirror, and no one’s ever been like, “Hey, Hillbilly Jo” or, “Yo, Mary Kate ‘half toof’ Teske” so I’m guessing I’m in the clear. Every time? Yeah, three times, actually. Which isn’t a lot, but it’s still probably a few too many times to get the same tooth knocked out.
The most current dislodging happened this last winter, the winter of 2018. I’d spent most of the brutal season in the desolate, isolated tundra of Eastern Montana, but came back to Billings in January for a surgery I had scheduled. During the summer, I had rock climbed too much, pushed a few of my limits and boundaries, and ended up tearing the tendon inside of my left index finger, which, in turn, produced this nasty cyst at the base of the finger. I’d left it and didn’t do anything about it, partially because I thought it was funny, but also because I thought it would go away on its own, which, it turns out, it didn’t.
Wait. Why the hell is she talking about her finger, I thought this was about a tooth.
Chill out. Chill out. I’ll get there.
When the fog of denial cleared, and I realized the nasty little thing growing inside of my hand wasn’t going away, I went to “the cyst doctor” and got my finger checked out. Like I said earlier, I had tore a tendon, which is what he told me, and the cyst inside of my finger was created by fluid that had ballooned out of the tear. I could leave it, and deal with my new cyst friend forever, or have minor surgery, get the cyst taken out, and the tear stitched up. I chose surgery. Might as well, right? I mean, who wants to willingly endure life with a strange, semi-painful bump on their hand? It’s you and me cyst, forever and ever, until death do us part, baby.
My stomach gurgled while sitting in the chair as the nurse put the catheter into my arm. Once it was fixed, the nurse, on her way out, turned to me and said “Your anesthesiologist, Dr. Dye, will be with you soon.”
“Dr. Die???! Dr. Die? Really? Are you serious? DR. DIE! Hey, mom, Dr. Die is going to put me under, hahahahaha.”
“Yes, Dr. Dye. He gets that a lot. I know it sounds like “die,” but really its just D-Y-E.”
“Still though, Dr. Dyeeeeee.”
The nurse left, my mom and I waited in the little room they put us in, and I kept yammering on about the doc’s name, while my mom kept telling me I was crazy. Five or ten minutes later, the curtain opened, and DR. DYE walked in. He introduced himself, and, obviously, we had another conversation about his name as he prepped me a little more. Eventually, we made our way to the room I was having surgery in, where I laid on the bed, Dr. Dye worked his magic, and I was out.
My limbs weighed a ton, as did my head. I laid, with my eyes closed, sluggishly sensing my waking body. Weird, dreamlike visions still cluttered my mind, and nothing made sense, because the anesthetic still intoxicated my system, but I felt like I remembered where I was and what had happened to me. My mouth was dry, so I started moving my tongue around trying to get some saliva going, which is when I felt it. Again, my inebriation was disorienting, but the concrete thought that my tooth was missing a big chunk of itself hit me all at once. My eyes popped open. I jolted straight up in the bed and saw a nurse sitting next to me on my left entering data into a computer. I must have scared him, coming to life like that, because he jumped and turned towards me, wide eyed and stiff. Before he could utter anything, I jutted my chin out, pried my mouth open enough to bare the tooth, and asked him, “Is my tooth gone? Is it really gone? This is the third time this has happened. Is it gone?” He looked at me HORRIFIED validating that the tooth was really gone. I leaned back and started cackling, repeating “This is the third time. Hahahahahaha.” Amidst my cackling, he extended his arms toward me and said, “I’m going to go get Dr. Dye. Hang on.” “Hahahaha, yeah, go get Dr. Die.” I cackled. Frantically he left the room. I continued cackling, and within the minute both the nurse and Dr. Dye were standing before me, staring at my mouth. Good ol’ Doctor Death turned white saying, “I’m so sorry! I didn’t know. I’ll pay for you to fix it. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” I cackled on for a bit, accepted his plea, and then told him and the nurse the stories of the first two times the tooth gained a personality of it’s own. The versions I told were WILD, because I was so drugged up, pausing here and there to cackle and show off the fresh chipping for emphasis.
Surgery, and “the incident,” happened on a Friday, meaning I had to endure the weekend without a chunk of enamel, and, on top of that, had to nurse my new wound/collection piece too. Dr. Dye never admitted to it, but my mom and I figured that the intubation tube is what probably knocked the filling loose, that, or maybe I bit it off somehow, or one of the surgeons dropped something on my face, or it could have naturally came loose. The variables are endless, but any which way it happened, it happened nonetheless. Monday came around, and the fronted cash from Dr. Dye got me in at the dental center. As the dentist sat there digging around in my mouth, he kept looking at me, while shaking his head saying, “You know, I wish I could tell you this was the last time you’d have to get this fixed, but…”
French class. It had to be something cliche and dumb like French class for me to fall in love with the woman sitting a few rows ahead of me. One of those “you’ve only made eye contact with her, but you can tell she’s incredible, and you’re already mesmerized by her, so you listen during roll call to see when she raises her hand just so you can cling to the knowledge of knowing her name,” kind of loves. I listened. I heard. I walked out of class that day in a hazy dream, because I had never felt that kind of instantaneous affection before. Classes continued and conversation slowly sparked between us, naturally, you know, as they do when you're comparing notes and answering the same questions. A week or two into the semester, we ended up grabbing coffee at one of the campus coffee shops after class. We talked for three hours, which sent me flying under her spell, but also landed my with two parking tickets. I had parked in a spot with a meter that day, and, forgetting to add more change because I was so entranced by her and our conversation, left the cafe with $300 worth of fines.
My roommates and I were always throwing parties. "Kikis" was actually the term, used from that one Scissor Sisters song, "Let's have a kiki. I wanna have a kiki. Lock the doors tight." The six of us lived in a four bedroom house in South East Portland, Oregon, and when we weren't working, we were partying, going to gay clubs, or getting into other kinds of shenanigans all over town. Most of the household was in college, so we decided to throw a "welcoming in the school year" party, to alleviate any stress we had after just starting up classes. This provided me my chance to invite la femme de la classe française over. That Friday came around, I picked her up from work, and there she was, at my house, at our party, meeting all of my friends and roommates, leaving me floating around unsure if this was real and she was really there. Music blasted, drinks were poured and near the end of the night, she told me she would meet me upstairs in my room. She made her ascent, and eager to get upstairs, but still under hosting obligation, I started making my rounds saying "Goodnight" to all of my friends and coworkers that had swung by. I grabbed my water bottle, and standing near a few of my coworkers that I was bidding farewell to, took a drink. One of them was telling a story, and getting more and more into it, kept narrating with his hands. I was still drinking, when *BAM* he smacked the water bottle, while it was in my mouth, and knocked the filling free. Everyone went quite. I pulled from my mouth the chunk that I nearly swallowed and staring at it, as well as at the abyss that was growing on the palm of my hand, wondered HOW IN THE HELL I WAS GOING TO GO UPSTAIRS AND FACE THE WOMAN I WAS MAD ABOUT WHO WAS IN *MY BED* FOR THE FIRST TIME WITHOUT A TOOTH.
Cody, the coworker who had done the deed,had stored his bike up in my room and followed me upstairs after I had calmed down and gained the courage to climb the stairs. We entered my room. The woman was in my bed, watching as Cody and I talked back and forth. He kept going on and on about wether he should stay or go. I kept telling him I didn’t know what he should do, but kept pleading for him to take his bike and get out of my room. Finally, he did. As he left, I slammed the door and shut off the light hoping the cover of darkness would hide my tooth from the woman of my dreams. It worked. As far as I know. Maybe she knew, and never told me, but nothing ever came up about it, so she must have not known, right?
I worked the weekend without a tooth, and served people at the diner I worked at with my hillbilly grin. Eventually, Monday came around, and, being the broke bitch I always am, I scheduled my appointment with the dentist at the college. They practiced on me, and I came away with a new, semi crooked, tooth.
I lied about how I lost my tooth for the first time, for yearssssss. I went to a tiny private Christian school growing up. One of those podunk little schools that wasn’t even accredited and didn’t have most of the amenities of a real school. We didn’t even have a gym, so for P.E. classes, we had to load up in a dingy van that was falling apart and drive to a nearby church to use their gym. This system worked pretty well, but if you were the last one in the van, everyone harassed you because you were taking up their precious gym time. Gym day came around, and I was the last one to get to the van, and knew it. After putting my stuff in my locker, I took off in a full run down the hallway. I turned a corner and kept my pace to the doors. Our teacher, thinking everyone was in the van already, locked the doors, so when I came to them, full speed like I did, my face and body slammed right into them. In the moment, I didn’t notice anything, but when I finally got to the van and we took off towards the gym, I felt something wrong. I didn’t say anything, but went to the bathroom to check out what had happened and saw my half tooth shining in the light. I didn’t tell anyone, and kept very quiet that afternoon, ashamed that I had lost it by running into a door.
Floor hockey was the game of choice for P.E., equipping each one of us with hockey sticks that we were let loose with for the hour. Competition always ran high between classmates, making the game seem more real than it was. About halfway through class, a girl on the opposite team was making her way with the puck closer and closer to our goal, so I stepped in on defense. I was keeping her in a tight area, when she decided to take a huge, over-exaggerated swing. The puck went flying somewhere behind me, and her follow through hit me right in the face. I dropped my stick, grabbing my face out of pain. My mouth let out a grunt, exposing my tooth, and she dropped her stick, thinking she had knocked my tooth out. Everyone came rushing over, including the gym teacher, who inspected my mouth. I got to take a seat, and watch as everyone scoured the floor searching for my lost tooth chunk for the remainder of class. Obviously, no one found anything, because I had broken it back at the school, but no one knew that.
For years, I told everyone that I had initially lost my tooth while playing floor hockey, and have just recently been telling the truth that I had ran into a door. I think my classmate that “knocked it out” still thinks she knocked it out, but it’s too late to call her up and be like “Yo! Remember me? The girl you bashed in the face with a hockey stick? Yeah, actually I knocked my tooth out by running into a door, because I was trying to make it to the van on time. Okay, byeeee.”
Yeah, it’s definitely too late, but at least it was a good addition to the story while it lasted.