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Monday, June 14, 2010

A Very, Very Long Way to Go

My gum hurts.

It's on the left side (right if you have the misfortune to be staring at me/it) of my mouth, right by the canine. It's a bit white and puffy. I brush my teeth twice a day ("Tom's of Maine" Orange & Mango [Kids] Toothpaste + Flouride, if you must know-- mint and I don't mix) but I've never flossed. I was somehow able to convince myself that rubbing a brush-shaped object schmeared with jookiee-joop all over it wasn't silly-- but the idea of jamming wax in between my teeth till blood was drawn never really caught on in my brain. I know, I know, if I flossed regularly, after a month of so the bleeding would stop.

Sorry-- that's a tough sell where I come from.

My mother has more silver in her teeth than you have in your necklace collection and my father's real teeth are kept in an envelope. Every now-and-then he pours them out onto the dining room table and plays Jacks with them-- usually to impress guests at our annual family Passovers seders. Dental fastidiousness was not, shall we say, overemphasized in my childhood abode.

I have, however, miraculously made it to 30 with zero cavities. Go figure.

To most people, painful, puffy gums might be a reminder that it's time to go to the dentist. For me, it's a reminder that my best friend and I haven't spoken since May of last year. See, when you're me, one of the side-effects of your best friend not speaking to you anymore is that you stop going to the dentist-- because your best friend's father is your dentist.

Or, was your dentist. I suppose. I haven't severed the business relationship officially yet, but I think, after all this time, he probably gets the message. See, although my best friend stopped talking to me ("going off the radar for a while" was how he put it) in May of 2009, I probably last went to see his father in a professional capacity maybe seven or eight months before that. Maybe more. I don't really know. His secretaries stopped calling me after five or six tries to reschedule some appointment made a very long time ago. His office had this great deal for people who are denticiously uninsured-- $95 a year for two cleanings-- and, while I could just go to another dentist, well, it's expensive when you don't have dental insurance.

Our society makes it seem like you cannot survive without certain things: reality television is one. A cellphone with a QWERTY keyboard is another (I admit that I feel like a WWI veteran without one) and a dentist is another. In Israel, back when my father was a child, nobody went to the dentist, at least, according to him nobody did.

"Mummy-- they are all fucking Russian cheats and liars there!" he said to me, laughing, his false bridge jiggling merrily inside his mouth.

Another thing that you supposedly cannot survive without in this world is a best friend. Look at all the buddy movies and television shows. Wouldn't Laverne turn into a pillar of salt without Shirley? Hardy would be just another fat bastard with a Hitler moustache without Laurel. Even partners who routinely locked horns feel lost when bereft of their other fifty percent. In 1901, when the world lost a musical genius, W. S. Gilbert lost the right arm he had so often taken for granted.

"A Gilbert is of no use without a Sullivan," he brooded. And he was right.

My best friend is gone because I questioned the trustworthiness of his girlfriend, and I questioned whether or not she was worthy of him. Big mistake. I think about this mistake every time I run my tongue along my swollen upper gum. And every time I don't, too.

"He got married last week, you know," my wife said to me yesterday morning while I was washing dishes, "I saw it on Facebook."

"Couldn't care less," I replied, placing a dish in the drying rack.

I don't really know if that's true or not. I am still filled with incalculable rage and disappointment-- some of it directed at him, some of it directed at me. Truthfully, I am tired of being angry and sad, and I am exhausted from emotionally beating myself up for opening my impossibly cavernous mouth. I have infinite respect for people who are able to censor themselves and see disaster waiting in the wings, and meticulously avert it with skillful maneuvering.

I was never one of those people. When my father was a soldier in the Israeli army, he and his idiot, testosterone-jacked hairy comrades drove a tank through somebody's house. That's kind of how I feel sometimes-- like the house is life and my mouth is the tank. I am reckless and dangerous, nearly always sharp-tongued and sometimes very dull-witted. My judgment takes no prisoners, and I am almost always the one who ends up suffering before I am even done speaking my peace.

I sometimes wonder when I am going to grow up. I am tired of waiting. I have hair on my shoulders-- clearly, I am ready.

Aren't I?

Obviously not, if I can't pick up the phone, make an appointment, face my former best friend's father, look him in the eye, open up, and say, "Ah."

Obviously, we have a very, very long way to go.


  1. DO you think if I asked nicely, your dad would donate his teeth to my tooth collection?

  2. Go to the fucking dentist Apron.


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