I had to go to the dentist so he could take a cast of the large hole in one of my teeth. At least that's what I thought he was going to do and why I was relatively calm. Instead he gets me horizontal and helpless then announces he'll be assaulting my root canals.
"It won't hurt," he said trying to engage my attention as he pumped anaesthetic into my gum. I was mildly reassured. "If it does, move your hand and I'll stop," he added. I stopped being reassured. Either it's going to hurt or not and if it is why did he say it wouldn't, I thought. I primed one hand to gesticulate and dug the other into his chair. I wondered if I slithered down the sludge-coloured plastic off the bottom and out the door he would run after me in his blue mask. I didn't move. I thought he might drill my tongue if I did and then how would I yell: "Stop". My mouth was choc full of latexed fingers and metal instruments, making anything other than grunts impossible, and I realised why God had given me hands.
It didn't hurt until right at the end and when I flinched he said: "That's enough for today." I had to wait until he'd removed his fingers and half the contents of his dental toolbox to find out what he meant exactly by "for today". It turns out I'll be coming back for more excavation of my root. Apparently this dental procedure is like prospecting for oil; they have to keep drilling until every last drop of nerve has been extracted. "It's a big tooth," he says, "With big roots". Great. Trust me to have the Abu Dhabi of nerve production under my crown. As I left the surgery he said: "It might be a little uncomfortable later on."
It is precisely two hours later on and I am in agony. I'd like to know what classes as painful if this is "uncomfortable". I feel like I'm living the China Syndrome with a throbbing red-hot rod searing its way through my head. I try to behave normally in front of La Fille - I don't want to make her terrified of the dentist before she's ever been - but I think she has guessed by the way I'm clutching my head and groaning at the wall. This is not, whatever anyone says, my normal behaviour. I ask her to find me something in another room and wait until she's gone to run to the cupboard containing bottles of drink so old I've forgotten how we came by them or how long they've been there. I find some Gordon's gin at the back and take a slug straight from the bottle. I squish the bitter fluid to the side of my mouth containing the painful tooth and puff my cheek, twitching my head back and forth. I don't think James Bond meant "Shaken, not stirred" to be taken so literally. I consider finding some olives and swallowing but I don't like neat gin and we haven't any vermouth. Standing clutching the gin I realise that guests in the hotel over the road must wonder if they're witnessing the last throes of a middle-aged Gallic alcoholic who has lost the plot or if I'm a bag lady who has wandered into someone else's apartment and is raiding the drinks' cupboard. I put the top back on the Gordon's. I don't care about the hotel people who I'll - hopefully - never meet. I just pray the neighbours haven't seen.
Tonight, I am cooking dinner for a friend who is up from the countryside so I can't cancel even though I feel sick. I phone the dentist. He is an exception in that he has a receptionist. She is an exception in that she is very pleasant. She asks about what kind of pain it is. I say: "It's pain that hurts". Is there any other kind? She tells me to hang on. I groan very loudly and not for effect. The dentist comes to the phone and advises me to take some painkillers as quickly as possible before the agony "takes hold". Too late, I fear. I find the painkillers and swallow enough to knock out a small dinosaur. Is this a good idea with gin?
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