Kamby Bolongo Mean River named one of 25 Important Books of the 2000s by HTML Giant

KBMR was named one of 25 Important Books of the decade by HTML Giant. And was a Page One selection of New & Noteworthy Books by Poets & Writers Magazine.

Monday, February 2, 2015

No News Today - Guest Post - Melissa Swantkowski

Something Useful

The pain in our teeth started gradually, and I was more focused on hers. “Soup doesn’t require chewing,” I told her. “Heated, just slightly, it won’t disturb the mouth at all.” We stocked up on Progresso, stacking cans two deep in the cabinets. We had in common a fear of the dentist, leftover from childhoods blighted by fillings in baby teeth, aggressive headgear and root canals by age nine. A few weeks in our relationship, we discovered we’d shared the same orthodontist.

Now, she had holes in her teeth, places where the composite fillings fell out, little white nuggets that she spit into her palm.

“Ow,” she said.

“Does it hurt?”

“Not really, but don't you think it should?”

“Is it tooth?”

“I don’t think so. Look for me.” She directed and I complied, bracing myself above her and lowering my face, the closest to sex we’d come in weeks.

“I see a hole. Where it came from.”

She rolled a chunk between two fingers. “Ugh, it’s disintegrating.”

“You should go to our dentist.”

She said she’d go tomorrow. She stopped asking me to look into her mouth, but I could tell when something was wrong. From the look on her face and the slowed pace of her chewing, I could tell.

Perhaps our first bonding agent wasn’t something unique. It was, after all, a small town. The man had yellowed teeth and halitosis, hairy wrists that poked out of the space between his white coat and too-tight latex gloves, and a booming business. He shoved wads of dry cotton into our gums and made a buzzing sound in his throat as he adjusted. He buzzed along to Top 40 hits and left glue on our canines.

My molars started to ache, really ache. It’s my sinuses, I reasoned. Something seasonal. I could tough it out. Just opening my mouth was a chore. I eased the toothbrush out to find the bristles bent and sticky, as if my jaws had attacked, given up, gifted me with a stranger’s effluvia.

But I went, and once in the waiting room, it seemed silly how hard it had been to get there. Then, in the chair, reclined half back, it seemed like a bad idea again. Had I moved on? I hadn't. The dentist cleaned and polished. He mentioned a referral to an oral surgeon. He flossed my teeth starting in the front. “You should start in the back though,” he said. “People have a tendency to get lazy by the time they get back there, and oh.” He pulled the floss from my mouth and wiped something yellow and gummy on my bib. He took a metal tapper from his tray. That’s all I can think to call it, a tapper. He tapped a molar, gently, then a little harder. “How does that feel?” 

“Mmm, okay,” I said, though I wasn't sure. He tapped another. He pointed a stream of air into my mouth, then suctioned. His third tap pulled at the contents of my stomach.

This couldn't exist as something that I, alone, experienced.

“Not good,” he said. “It seems, with the cleaning, I’ve uncovered a network of cavities. They start here,” he tapped, “and go all the way back here,” he tapped his way into a far corner of my mouth. I imagined mole tunnels. My teeth like an unkempt lawn. I think I saw a glint of drill-giddiness in his eyes. My stomach protested. “Do you need a moment?” he asked, sitting back, crossing ankle over knee and glancing at the Novocain. I closed my mouth cautiously, afraid of what I might find when my teeth met.

The dentist pursed his lips and pushed his hands back inside my mouth, prodding my gums and tapping. “It’s generally true that your front teeth, the adult ones, are in proportion to your face. There is a ratio that works out mathematically.” I wondered what he was trying to tell me and couldn’t ask him with my mouth wide open and his hands inside. I tried to recall, looking at my teeth, if they seemed somehow proportionally relational to my face, 1/50ththe size, or perhaps, at a distance, the same shape. I tried to recall looking at her teeth, the time that I’d held my face over her, as close as the dentist was now. I had only looked in the back, but surely I’d noticed her smile, could remember it, or at least bring it back up as an image. But what I saw instead was the soup, cans lined up in my pantry like a grin.

The dentist nodded as if he’d told me something useful. He turned away to ready his instruments. I wondered there was something off about my teeth that made them wrong, something different from teeth, in general.

Melissa Swantkowski is the fiction editor at Bodega Magazine and one-half of The Disagreement, an edited reading series based in NYC. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Joyland, The Mississippi Review, Monkeybicycle and elsewhere. You can read all of this again, and more, at melissaswantkowski.com

No comments:

Post a Comment