I had a cavity, right up until the day before my appointment, I swear to God.
The whole left side of my face throbbed, especially around microwaves, and especially if I was in a hurry to heat up my favorite Brocolli and Cheese Lean Pocket. I used to eat up to three Lean Pockets a day, until that damn cavity. Once the pain became unbearable, I could only manage one a day and I think my whole office could hear my muffled sobs as the frozen deliciousness made its turn in the old, shuddering machine. I began to worry that the hole in my tooth was radioactive.
This is what I told Dr. Kravitz’s receptionist when I made the appointment. She was very understanding and fit me in on a Tuesday afternoon. I took the entire day off as a precaution, just in case Dr. Kravitz had to put me under: Novocain, Laughing Gas, Morphine. I didn’t know what to expect.
When I woke up that morning, my face had stopped aching. As I brushed the globules of breakfast Lean Pocket from my pearly whites, I decided not to tell Dr. Kravitz that the cavity was gone. I thought it would be worth it if he took a closer look.
By the time the receptionist called my name, I was re-imagining my pain so well that I had a slight lisp when I walked by her and said, “Thanks.” I’d been seeing Dr. Kravitz for years, so I went ahead and plopped onto the first long patient chair I saw. It was yellow, and I chuckled to myself. It must have looked like I was lying on a giant banana. I reminded myself that I was supposed to be in pain, so I leaned back and closed my eyes as though my teeth hurt too much to keep them open.
“Karen, are you all right?” Dr. Kravitz was standing over me with my chart in his hands.
“Hi, Doctor. Yes,” I said with my new lisp again. Concern wrinkled his forehead, and he sat down. Something about him looked different, fresh. “I see it’s been a while,” he met my eyes, “since your last appointment.”
Oh no. I was in love with him. Just like that: this was it.
I tried to think of something to say. I wanted to tell him about the Lean Pockets, that Cupid’s arrow had hit me straight in the molar, bringing us together. And that his mustache, silver and gleaming under the dentist chair light had never looked so dashing. So sensual.
I opened my mouth to speak, but as though sensing my struggle for words, he looked down and continued to shuffle through the papers in my chart. “Ah, you are complaining of intense pain and … sensitivity to microwaves. Interesting. I’ve never heard that one before.”
I grabbed his arm. His eyes met mine again. So brown.
“Only when I was very close to them,” I said.
He moved his arm away, hesitantly. The tension was incredible.
“Okay,” he said. “Lean back and I’ll take a look.”
As I laid my head back, I moved my neck back and forth to ensure that my hair would fan out behind me like a curly, Herbal Essence halo. I could see lightning flash in his eyes, questioning. Maybe he was reviewing the Hippocratic Oath in his head – what were the rules about sleeping with a patient if a giant banana chair and the sparks of eternal love were involved?
“Karen, are you okay? You’re breathing quite heavily.”
“Mhmm,” I managed.
“Please open your mouth now,” he said. I obeyed. I was his slave. Anything for you, Dr. Kravitz. Oh God, what was his first name? No matter. We would save trivial information like that for our honeymoon. I flushed with pleasure. Our children would have free dental care for life. He began to scrape my back teeth with a miniature metal hook. Kinky.
I looked at his face once more. How had everything changed so fast? The bags under his eyes no longer seemed so baggy. Their deep purple now only matched the color of the blood pumping through my unworthy heart. His nose – the nose that loomed above me, its hair regal and pronounced – it was the nose of emperors and orthodontists. A nose that said, “I am a leader, not a follower.” And his teeth. They winked at me from under that glorious mustache. I noticed for the first time: they weren’t straight. What a selfless, perfect man, putting everyone else’s teeth before his own.
“Karen,” he said, pulling me back to reality, which would be better than dreams from now on. “I don’t see anything. In fact, I would argue that your teeth are in perfect condition.”
I stared at him. I stared at him and he looked back at me like a man who wanted to say something, something divine and marvelous and about a beach house on the Cape, but we stayed silent. We didn’t need words.
“I,” he hesitated, swallowed, had a thought. Just ask, my heart was screaming. Anything! I’m yours! He spoke again. “I have other patients. So, take care of yourself. The exit is through the lobby.”
And then he walked away. He left me there, in that giant banana chair.