Posted by: Amanda | March 9, 2011

February’s Real Post: Dreams of a Tooth and an Old Woman

Someone mentioned that it’s already March, and I realized I was one real post behind. But, hey, February is short right.

Here it is. I’m not sure what this is, but it’s what’s been burning in me for the past few weeks.

Dreams of a Tooth and an Old Woman

I sleep fitfully, somewhere between reality and the fantasy world. My body is sticky with sweat, and I toss the quilt aside. It slinks across the black satin sheets, falls to the floor in a heap. Moments, maybe an hour or two, later I rub my neck where the sweat stays. Then, I notice I’m wrapped in the quilt again, enclosed in it like it’s a cocoon. 

I force my eyes shut, but they flicker furiously behind my lids. I’m panicked, but I need to sleep. I close my eyes to dream the same story. This time, I aim to finish.

It starts like before. I’m asleep, but I can feel the pain–a sharp pang in my lower left molar, the second one from the back. The pain grows and grows, and I twist and turn with each pang. I feel myself coming back to reality and squeeze my eyes shut tighter, feeling the rapid movement of my eyeballs.

I wait for a demented dentist to come along to extract the tooth. But there is no demented dentist. There is only the demented tooth–the tooth that torments me night after night.

***

She’s old. Her left hand rests on the side of an old rocking chair. The fuschia nails are bitten and the paint is chipped. But the fuschia is bold against the beige armchair. She’s wearing something older folks might know as a “duster”–a mix between a robe and a gown and maybe an artist’s smock. It’s pale blue with tiny yellow daisies all over it.

Her right elbow is propped on the other arm of the chair; that hand holds a cigarette, poised inches from her lips. It’s an expensive cigarette, not a store-brand special. She gazes towards the window across the room but doesn’t look out–not really. She’s looking back.

**

The sharp pangs of the tooth keep coming, but there’s more. Now, it burns. I hate the tooth so much. I want to reach into my mouth and pull it out, flush it down the toilet like a dead fish. But, I can’t reach it. My mouth is small, and it’s far back. I can’t get a grip on the tooth. My sweaty hair tangles into the quilt. I try to tear the quilt from me, but I can’t find the edges.

Then, I feel the rush and warmth and smoothness of blood as it pours from my mouth, running down the left side of my face. The tooth is gone, ripped from my mouth. The blood is the happiest blood, it refreshes my mind, and I feel like I can live again.

Then, I see it. The tooth is dancing around the room. It has grown a face, legs, and arms. It’s the sinister twin of the cute, tooth buddies on the dental hygiene sheets they give out at the pediatric dentists’ offices and at elementary schools during National Dental Hygiene Week.

The tooth mocks me as he glides through the air on an imaginary zipcord as circus music plays. He is saying that there is no escape. The physical pain becomes mental pain.

**

The woman pulls the cigarette close to her mouth, stopping for just a moment before pulling the filter end inside her lips. She sucks in deeply, pulling the chemicals into her lungs. Then, just as slowly, she exhales the smoke sending a steady puff into the air around her head. Her cat Napoleon jumps from her lap, arching his back before he meows at her, a throaty growl. “Just one more draw,” the woman says, her voice a whisper of gravel. The cat seems satisfied and settles under her chair.

She pulls the cigarette back to her lips, taking in that last inhale of nicotine, exhales again, and stubs the cigarette into the ashtray. She rubs her hand across her thinning, dull hair. As she slips her feet into her slippers, the cat is back, slinking between her ankles. She heads to the kitchen where she pours him some kibble into a dirty red bowl.

She slowly walks back to the sitting room, and the phone rings. For a moment, she wonders if it might be one of the kids. Then, she remembers, they’re gone. Maybe not dead but gone from her life. She sits back in her chair.

There’s a Bible, upside down, on the table beside her. She looks at it. She’s been reading it, little by little, each day for the past 3 years. She’s almost to Jeremiah. The words sometimes blur, and she can only read a few verses, and sometimes she gets lost in the geneaology. She picks up the Bible, and I see it, the name on the cover. It’s mine.

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