If I were alone in the wilderness and it was 1800, this toof would have killed me.


Saturday morning I slept late and made breakfast with C and the housemates, eggs and kale from the backyard and corn tortillas and injera, which C and I have started to make. We got teff from the Ethiopian store, we put it in a bowl with some water and let is sit to make starter, like a sourdough. The starter began to stink, and we knew it was ready. We cook it in a pan with some salt and it makes a sort of dark, sour flatbread, like rye. Half the time I fuck it up but we eat it anyway, dipped in soup.

For breakfast we also had bacon. Good bacon, that lived a happy life, I like to think. A week ago at school I stumbled upon some PETA literature and was reminded of the holocaust concentration camp-like life of the modern meat pig. When I am at the health food store, selecting my bacon, I like to tell myself that this is not the life that MY meat pig leads. I like to think that my pig lives a somewhat better life- a spirit-weary life of oppression and ordinary boredom, maybe, but not the fantastical, horror-movie suffering of a factory farm animal. My pig, I like to tell myself, does not get scalded alive in a pit of boiling water. My pig has room to turn around. My pig’s piglets are not thrown into a bin to slowly suffocate beneath the weight of their siblings. But really, I have no way of knowing. The bacon is more expensive, it has no nitrates. But the packaging says nothing. It is a quiet omission of information, and it makes me wonder. What am I complicit in?

After breakfast AM picked me up and we went to forest park to hike and talk rapidly, and with great energy, about writing. Writing writing and reading writing and teaching writing and publishing writing and all the sorts of things that we think about, every day, when we get up in the morning and when we bike around and when we are eating food. The forest was cold and smelled green and brisk and yellow leaves rustled on the path. People were out walking with their dogs, small dogs and big dogs and dogs that looked like bales of cotton batting with faces stuck on the end. After walking, as we were driving out of the wealthy NW neighborhood, past where Ursula K Leguin’s house is, we saw a yard sale, and stopped to look. It was the fanciest yard sale either of us had ever seen. I bought a down comforter and a beautiful ceramic teapot, and AM found a hand-woven rug. Then we found a taqueria nearby and casually told horrific stories from our childhoods while we ate. After eating we wandered down NW 23rd with the throngs of Saturday shoppers and looked at all the uninspiring, overpriced clothing in the window displays. We found a stationary store and AM bought a deck of playing cards. Out on the sidewalk she opened the pack and showed the cards to me, holding them up in the light.

“Seven of clubs!” shouted a man who was walking past.

“3-D cat!” I yelled back, and we turned the deck to show the man how the kitten grew larger when you moved the card back and forth.

AM dropped me off at the dental clinic in time for my appointment. I drank some water and fidgeted nervously, and then a woman ushered me into the room with the tree on the ceiling. After a moment a very friendly dentist came in and stuck a long needle in my jaw, injecting Novocain into the hot, infected tissues around my wisdom tooth. He took his time with the needle and I cried out with a dull, loud sound and water came out of my eyes. I am phobic of needles and a shot in the jaw hurts very much, and so the needle, for me, is always the very worst part of getting a tooth extracted. Soon I was numb and drooling, and the dentist stuck a few more needles in my face to make sure I would stay that way. The assistant brought a blanket to stop my trembling. The dentist put a pliers in my mouth and in exactly fifteen seconds the tooth was out and lying, whole and perfect-looking, on the metal tray. I could neither talk nor feel, and I bit down on a little square of guaze. The elevator took me to the sidewalk and outside, I ran to catch the lightrail.

At home it was warm and the sun shone down through the south-facing windows of my cottage, making soft yellow squares on the bamboo floor. I lay in bed under the covers, cold and listless, and waiting for feeling to come back to my face. My saliva pooled strangely in my throat, and my tongue felt as though it were dead. I swallowed awkwardly and dozed while the sun sank behind the houses and the room dimmed. I woke at six-forty, and my jaw began to throb. Soon it felt as though I had been kicked in the face by a horse, as if everything from my ear to my incisors to my cheek up near my sinuses had been cracked with a hammer. I took a vicodin and lay in bed, feeling sorry for myself, until the pain faded enough for me to build a fire in the woodstove. The cottage became a sauna and I gathered the cat in my arms and lay back down, content. C stopped by after work with her arms full of treats, vegetables for the juicer and frozen raspberries, and I ate some coconut red lentil soup and soft injera, opening and closing my jaw and delicately mashing my food. I had more vicodin for desert and then off to bed, warmed by the woodstove and C, my jaw knitting itself together quietly while I slept. I dreamt I was lost in a huge airport, my mouth full of taffy. I’d gotten on the wrong train after a fight and couldn’t find C. We would miss our plane. I finally cleared the taffy from my mouth enough to call her, and she answered the phone, exasperated. C never gets exasperated. I remembered this when I woke in the grey light of morning, the cat curled in a tight spiral on the covers. I felt contentment rise through me and I curled up closer to C, wrapping myself around her. She smelled like warm sleeping animal, like chocolate and oregano. The day was making gentle noises outside the window, car-rushing and some sort of morning birds. It was a new day. It wasn’t 1800, and I hadn’t died. The dentist hadn’t ruined me, I could get up. It would be sunny. I could make juice from celery and beets. I felt grateful.

4 thoughts on “If I were alone in the wilderness and it was 1800, this toof would have killed me.

  1. Perhaps a more gentle dentist? Mine does it all without pain and never shows me needles.
    Bring music/podcasts to help pass the time and focus on something else @ dentist.

  2. you’re such a great writer- everything you decide to write about is captivating and interesting and leaves us all wanting more.

    toof! aww bless your little toof! that you said toof makes my heart break!

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