Fear is not something that can be postponed. It cannot be shaped, or fought. And the worst thing about it is that you’ll never see it coming -- at least I didn’t. Most people get nervous and uncertain about going to the doctor or the dentist because they are there to help you, seems logical right? When you’re five and your mother pulls you out of school on a Friday, you get hyped just like when you get a sleepy substitute teacher.
It was a warm and sunny Friday in August, you just had award winning school lunch and you’re called down to the office. You’re shocked to see mom there ready to, what it looks like, go home. She said, “Sweetie come one, we’re going to the dentist office.” Although I was let down, it didn’t bother me, I get a toothbrush and a toy from the top drawer when I’m usually done anyways. It was a win-win for me.
In the car, the windows were tinted and gave a strange effect on the sunlight passing through. Taking longer than expected I complained how hungry I was, but mom says I have to wait until the appointment is over to eat, I grew more stubborn. Now pulling on the road that the dentist is on, I know this because it has the alligator crossing sign twice on the same side, I unbuckle my seatbelt even though I know I’ll get warned to put it back on. We pull into the cement, rolling smooth like a comic who writes his own jokes. I feel the regular nervous symptoms, sweaty hands and forehead, trembling legs, and jumbling hands.
The office smells like breast milk, there are kids running around, babies screaming louder than jet engines, and mothers holding their phones with their shoulders. We go to sign in, mom tells me to find a seat, while my sweaty hands begin to work on a second coat. I found a corner seat with enough space for a family of four, we sat mostly undisturbed, while I fought the urge to play with the toys provided all over the floor. My mom pretends to read a magazine while I gaze around the room, trying to find something to distract me from getting even more nervous.
What seem like a millennium later I hear my name, the lady always pronounces my last name wrong, and my mother and I march with the lady through the hallway. Some rooms are open with dentists conversing, others are shut with loud machines. We take a right turn. There is a huge room with double doors. Next to the doors, to the left and right, are two glass windows so you can see what is going inside the room. There are a handful of dentists in there preparing equipment and all wearing particle masks. Right past that room was where I sat, while my mom checked in to another head desk, this wait was quite different than the entrance of the office. We were the only people back there, no screaming kids, it was quieter than a cemetery. I was extremely nervous, now growing fear. I heard my name being pronounced incorrectly again. I followed the man that had his mask down, my mother sat still and quietly while reading another magazine. Eager to walk pass that scary room, I ended up following the man into the room. Just like Lemon in The Things They Carried, at this point, I was terrified of what was about to happen and would freak out inside.
The room was illuminated with lights brighter than those on a UFO. The staff seemed to have doubled, while still trying to observe my surroundings, I was asked to climb up on the operating chair that was flattened to 180 degrees. While lying down, I could barely see anything except for the brightest lights ever and the dentists’ heads. They had me put a heavy vest on so I could take x-rays. I had to clench down on plastic pieces so the dentists could take and observe pictures of my teeth. After what seemed like a quick checkup, the group started to turn on different machines, I wasn’t sure if they had numbed my gums because I didn’t feel much throughout the procedure. The first thing that they did was put a pencil like machine in my mouth and it made the loudest noise imaginable. I can barely see or hear, and there is a group of people huddled around me, nightmare was the right word. Almost directly after the noise stopped, they removed the pencil thing from my mouth, then started to place what looked like sliced olives all over mouth. I grew curious to what the heck was this wrong with me, it felt like I was glued to the chair forever. I grew less nervous and more aggravated. I fear was a little bit different as if I feared something else, but the fear still remained. Though I don’t remember them giving me anything to sleep or numb my mouth, I remember closing my eyes for a long time and opening them back up many times. Some of the times the dentists were not around me, other times they were positioned somewhere else like they were in a revolution around my head. After the olive things they placed in my mouth, I don’t remember them doing much afterwards, just maybe messing around with tools to move around whatever they were trying to move in mouth.
I often think of this experience to something like an alien abduction, where you’re in a bright room laying down. When you look up you only see shadows of figures staring at you, poking you. Most people that claim to have been abducted, and remember the experience ass terrifying and unique, as I do mine. After the operation, the dentist handed me a mirror, and I was shocked. I don’t remember if I liked them or hated them, But I now had two proud and energizing silver teeth. I ran out of the doors and showed my mom, I don’t remember if she laughed or frowned, but she gave me a handful of quarts to go to gamble on the gumball and cheap toy machines while she talked to the dentists to pay or discuss. I remember getting two of the sticky hand toys, one red and one green. The ones you could find at any grocery store and some restaurants. I fumbled with them for the rest of the visit.
My mom grabbed my hand and walked me out to the car, I was still waving the hand things around with one hand and rubbing my two dry, new teeth with the free hand. I couldn’t wait to show everyone at school the next day, or even see my dad’s reaction when I got home.
My dad came home, dirty and with the same Coke bottle that was glued to his hand everyday. When I showed him, I think he said that they were cool or something, and then directed his attention towards my mom and the fridge. Still squeaking my two teeth with my free hand, sometimes it would make a high pitched sound.
Kindergarten, I remember almost more of than a lot of the other grades. This was one of the happiest areas that I lived in, and the teacher was very committed to us, which I’ll forever cherish. The kids names have slipped my mind although. When I was walked to my classroom the following monday, everyone’s jaws dropped. They were all, without a doubt, shocked. I didn’t care if they liked them or not, I got all of the attention for quite some time and I was happy. I'm sure that made me a lot of friends as well. I remember sitting with older kids on the bus ride. The only one that didn’t pay much attention was my great kindergarten teacher.
This trip to the dentists changed my world and would, to this day, manipulates my feelings towards going to the dentists. Even though the procedure was scary and a huge transformation for me, I would forever be changed by it and grateful for the good and bad things it brought me. If asked to do this again, shockingly I’d say yes.