There exists on Long Island the world’s oldest old-school dentist. I won’t name names, but I will, if pressed, give up some longitude and latitude coordinates. When I visited him for my bi yearly checkup, I was taken aback by the rusted, barnyard-like implements he used to scrape plaque off my teeth and the wayback machine that took my x-rays, which sporadically shook and spat out radioactivity straight into my throat, altering the last three DNA sequences that once separated me from a toad.
The dentist’s nice face and hopeful smile – a byproduct of an age when people went to dentists regularly and lost their teeth anyway – meant he took my state insurance.
The physically painless visit allowed me to freely observe all of the old equipment’s cracks and leaks. The basement smells emanating from the upholstery transported me back to the late 1970s, an era when technology like this was brand new. The nostalgia overwhelmed. Oh, how I yearned for that time. I was a zygote then, a zygote whose head was filled with the romantic notions of life a person (kind of) has when their experiences are limited to gentle suspension in amniotic fluid.
After the appointment ended, he patted me on the L-24 like a kindly old grandpa and told me I was fine and that I wouldn’t need to see him again “for at least three harvest moons.”
No dentist worth his weight in bonded amalgam should ever tell a patient that everything looks fine, even when it is. If this happens, the patient goes home on a carefree note thinking she can continue her current flossing regimen – the one sparked during the “life assessment hangover guilt” induced by the moderate, three-months-apart cocaine binges – and she’ll magically never need dentures.
“You’re fine” is the gong equivalent of a death knell. I go to the dentist specifically bracing myself for a humbling lecture on oral hygiene and a harsh appraisal of my personal habits and life choices. If your dentist is good at what he does, you won’t need a father.
Boyfriends tell me I’m like a crazy person during lapses in healthcare coverage when I pine for their approval and goad them into arguments with leading questions. But what they don’t understand is, the unwanted behavior, which can be neatly traced back to my deep-seated early childhood issues, is a way of acting out all my dentist insecurities.
Unfortunately, my Long Island guy proved too dinosaur for the kind of sadistic treatment I really needed, what with his sweet bedside manner and the gingerly touch that left my gums unbruised and bloodless. I walked out of his backwoods, shanty office actually feeling good about myself. Every spring that sprung into my step waved its tiny red flag.
I believe there’s still room out there for homespun dentists. And although I’ll never be seeing mine again unless it’s to pick up the charcoal sketches he drew of how he thought my teeth might look if he had used a real x-ray machine, at least it’s nice to know that a pat on the enamel still means something in these cynical times.