It began one week ago. Last weekend. I was eating something, I don’t recall what. Mindless eating, which I sometimes do. I was chomping away when suddenly I felt a “vacancy” in my gums and a hard, ricocheting object intermingled with my partially masticated food. Aw shit, I thought. Not again. It had been a very long time since since this tooth had acted up I moaned as my tongue instinctively explored the newly empty spot. A root canal was performed on one of my upper teeth a long time ago, and periodically, the cap loses all cement adhesion and falls off. Becomes unfastened. Being that I’m a procrastination sort of fellow, I tend to prolong the period before I finally make a dental appointment in order to have the tooth “professionally” affixed back into the dental lot it was assigned. In the meantime, the tooth falls off occasionally and I quickly stick its sharp post back into my gums, into a socket the dentist created a long time ago when he finished off the root canal. But, as I said, the tooth occasionally becomes loose. I don’t know why or what I do to cause this. It’s rather inconvenient. I make sure to remove the tooth before I go to bed each night because it is essentially an “iceberg.” Above the water, there is a tooth; below, there is a sharp, needle-like spike that entrenches a false root into the walls of my gums. I don’t think it’s wise to fall asleep with this thing hanging precariously disconnected in my mouth.
I refuse to be the subject of a sick, odd news story which reads “California Man Chokes to Death On Dental Cap In His Sleep.” So I remove it every night and put it in the denture tub where my partials also rest overnight. My teeth are an absolute mess.
I’ve had every manner of dental work you can imagine. I’m not even 50, but my mouth looks like the walls of the Grand Canyon. I take good care of my teeth now but the horse is long out of the dental barn. It’s all about prevention now, and a lot of hoping for the best. Still, I’m the victim of my past, evidenced by this loose cap. It’s very inconvenient walking around and constantly having to be vigilant that my tooth does not go flying out my mouth. I must refrain from open-mouthed exclamations or sneezes in public, or at the very least, I must be prepared. In fact, after the tooth first fell into the personal vat of food I was chewing last week, I sneezed in my kitchen and this was soon followed by the remorseless clattering of a small, solid object dancing across the linoleum floor. My tooth, of course. A sneeze will jar it, and if I’m not careful, it will fly out my open mouth with all the force of a gale-force wind.
I’m a busy guy, so don’t preach at me about fixing this. Between a new job, a funeral, a school performance and a weekend shopping getaway, I’m not in a position to spare much time. It’s easier, for now, to put the tooth back into its nook while I proceed with living this insanely busy life. Of course, when you have a tooth that is ready to launch out your mouth at any moment, shit will happen. It has been happening all week, and it’s a pain in the ass, but I’ve yet to consider when I can visit a dentist. Earlier this week, at my parents, I laughed hard at something and next thing you know, the familiar sound of a small, solid object clattered across the floor. My first instinct in such situations is to dive to the floor and look for my launched tooth because if I lose that cap, I lose hundreds of dollars, and more importantly, my self-respect since it means I will have to walk around with a big hillbilly gap in my mouth. The tooth is gold. It is my essence and my self-respect. I must protect it with every ounce of my soul. I must first refrain from opening my mouth during any demonstrative exclamations, and when I eat, I must be careful. Last night, as I ate a cheeseburger in lovely Cambria, I lost the tooth twice into the swirling stew that was chewed hamburger in my mouth. Being in a restaurant, I slyly sifted it from the mush and pulled it out of my mouth (carefully shielding the endeavor with cupped hands) and re-inserted it into its temporary home before commencing with my meal. Such has been my life for a week. My tooth flies out constantly. And of course, I had no time to remedy the problem before heading up to the idyllic Central California coastal town of Cambria. A little shopping, a little eating, a little toothy malfeasance. I hate my tooth right now!
Cambria is heaven on earth for someone like me. There are few people clogging the streets, and those that you do encounter are friendly and courteous and respectful as hell. Most of them are older and retired and White, which is the trifecta of pleasantness. Cambria is all galleries displaying local artists and other small independent business offerings. Everything is so real, and the weather is perfect. It was in the forties and fifties and the nights dipped into 40-ish territory. The ocean is in sight at all times. Or at least the ocean air is. It is a quiet colony and I found myself contrasting it with Los Angeles but there was no contest. Young people like crowds and urban scenes because this is where the mating opportunities live. I’m 49, I’m past that. I just want a chill, quiet world where I can think without a bunch of hoodlums and loud trash riling things up in tune with hormonal flow.
Cambria was wonderful until I visited with my disconnected tooth. I wonder if that gentle township will ever be the same.
It started when we walked into a small gift shop. We were greeted by a very friendly middle-aged White woman who told us tactfully but charmingly that we could leave our coffee with her at the counter since that was not allowed in the store. Fair enough, we agreed. We continued shopping. There were some fringe type of books that I thought my brother would like. I browsed through those. I found one where a guy was boasting of the value of cold showers as a remedy to illness and aging. Another about the value of accepting death as a present condition in order to live freely. I showed my travel mate because I’ve often droned at length about cold showers. I finally found a gift upstairs where the cashier lady told us the specials lived. As I headed back to the counter, she saw that I had a purchase in my hands and said something like “Oh, you found something” but in a very snarky way and I laughed loudly, forgetting about certain oral conditions…
At that very moment, something flew from my mouth. She appeared startled. I don’t recall what she said, but it expressed shock and puzzlement, and next thing I heard was the clattering of my tooth as it bounced across the floor behind the cash register. In self-protective mode again, I dove to the ground and finally located the tooth behind her feet. Embarrassed and explaining, she finally understood what happened. I hooked the tooth back into my mouth quickly in a state of personal panic. I didn’t even wipe it down. She joked offhandedly about a dentist up the street, but cautioned that he was “expensive, like everything in Cambria.” I thanked her, red-faced, and explained I would take care of the problem.
But really, I have no plan. I have no plan to take care of it. My tooth will continue flying out my mouth until I lose it and am forced to walk around Los Angeles with an unsightly gap in my mouth. That might be cool. Probably not, though. L.A. is unforgiving of lapses in personal appearance. The poor lady was so taken aback, but settled into good cheer right away. In L.A., they would have been laughing and talking shit about me for hours.
As I left the gift shop, I realized that in scooping the tooth up and putting it in my mouth, I had also introduced random particles of gross, unknown origins into my mouth as well, including what felt like a short hair.
Ah Cambria! You met my tooth.