He drilled a hole in my mouth and I asked if he had daughters. I was in a hallucinatory haze, unable to pronounce the hard “t” sound as my tongue was limited by a gauze. He brought me to the anesthesia pick-up section in the parking lot. His hand carefully clung to my bicep as he guided me through a leafy path with displaced stones that sat sideways in the dirt. A path directed away from the main waiting room where the untouched patients patiently waited to be in the room with the fluorescent face light, dental drill, and oxygen tank. He didn’t want them to see my bloody gauze, hear my rambling words or notice the help I received. He led me to my car and spoke to my designated driver about my recovery. My gauze needed to be changed and the pain would come on soon when my anesthesia dissipated. He prescribed me a pain reliever. He buckled me in the passenger seat. His head ducked as he extended his arm over me to snap my seatbelt. I smiled toothlessly and thanked him. He walked away, back through the leafy path.
He had dark hair and a scruffy beard for what I could make out under his surgical mask. I ducked my head under the covers and shut my eyes hard in hopes to remember if he answered my question after I came to. He drilled a hole in my gum socket where my lateral tooth was supposed to be. I had been born without a tooth there and lived with an empty gum socket up until today when it was replaced with bone marrow and metal. My mouth had been wide open and I had been unconscious. I didn’t know why I asked if he had any daughters, did he wonder why I asked if he had any daughters? Maybe I wanted my parents to be waiting for me in the anesthesia pick-up section. Wouldn’t I have asked for them instead?
He told me to rinse out my mouth with warm salt water after every time I ate something. Whenever I put something in my mouth, I had to wash away the reminiscences to fight infection and promote healing. He called me while I was gargling. My mouth still couldn’t open wide enough to fit his index finger in it. I answered with a soft hello and he asked how I was doing. I said I was good. I didn’t mention the throbbing pain in my gums that shot up to my nostril then back to my molars and cheek. I didn’t tell him the nauseous feelings of the ongoing anesthesia haze that was then warped from the pain relievers he prescribed me. I smiled when he praised me for my recovery and the pain shot to my ear. After he hung up, I gargled salt water five more times and told myself I was his best patient.
Excruciating pains and the expected swelling of the right side of my face woke me up from a drugged sleep. I started crying five minutes later when sleep wasn’t returning to me. In a brief period, I lost two things. One was the ability to be unconscious, to feel no discomfort from the hole in my mouth. Two, the strength to not reflect on my dental surgeon’s attentiveness. I desperately wanted to call him but he had only given me the phone number of his practice. I was alone, without anyone who was an expert on my pain and on relieving it. I pinched my swollen cheek and tears ran down my face. I could not believe, at four in the morning, that he would let me leave the practice immediately after surgery. After I had been wide open, bleeding, delusional and upset. I knew he did this for every patient but I was different. I had obeyed his instructions, taken the correct dosages of highly impressionable medications, acted content on the phone, and paid his bill. What more did he want from me? Maybe I should have drilled the hole myself, let infections take over my mouth so I could smell the metallicity of his careful hands again.
It was the morning. My roommate had led me to our porch to let the sunlight and cool air wake me from a sleepless night. My phone vibrated and his name popped up on my cell phone. I let it sit in my hand for a moment and felt the buzz of his call. Finally, I answered. As inconsiderate as last time, he asked how I was doing. I said fine. He asked if I was okay with the post-op appointment his receptionist set up for me. I told him I was unsure, that I did not get any sleep last night and was in no position to think about post-op appointments because of the pain he put me in. He stammered on his words for a moment and told me he could up my dosage of hydrocodone and recommended I begin to put a warm towel on my face in intervals. I said please do and I would. He said he would call back at a better time.
Alexandra Francese is from a small town in the Hudson Valley in upstate New York. She now resides in Tampa where she is focusing on continuing her education at the University of South Florida in creative writing. Alexandra holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology where she learned the importance and influence of feminist theory and literature and is currently working on a Novella.” Instagram @ali_francese and Twitter @franceseali