A hush falls over the office, the kitchen, the train, as we contemplate the completion of another week of our lives and the approach of the weekend.
If only there was some way to know what to expect. If only we could be, say, forewarned so as to be forearmed…
But wait! Didn’t I tell you? My iPod! My iPod, set on “shuffle” and played during Friday morning’s commute holds the key to all of our questions!
What? Yes, really. Oh, humor me and play along. I have so little…
Bang and Blame by R.E.M.
Ziggy Stardust by David Bowie
Ball of Confusion by Love and Rockets
I Want Some More by Dan Auerbach
We Are The Ones by The Coup
Love Long Distance by Gossip
A Perfect Twist by Mike Patton
Uh-oh. Someone’s heart is going to be broken, I just know it. Luckily it won’t be mine, as I had it removed in splinters some time ago…
So! Do we have time for a story?
You remember Mary, don’t you? Mary, the woman with whom I earn an honest living, the cleaner of other people’s bathrooms and visitor of the elderly, the woman who has promised to keep me, as I age, from getting a wiry perm or acquiring sweatshirts appliquéd with teddy bears waving the American flag, had a serious problem.
Mary needed to have a tooth pulled.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But it isn’t. Not when you have no money and no insurance.
For the last two months, Mary has struggled, consuming up to 16 Advil a day.
The left side of her face eventually became quite swollen.
“Looka be,” she moaned through clenched teeth. “I ab so hurty.”
The first dentist, whom Mary feared she’d have to pay in foot rubs and popcorn hulls, diagnosed the wisdom tooth as abscessed, gave her a course of antibiotics, and sent her out the door with a figurative foot to the small of her back.
“We’ll take it out when you’ve finished the pills!”
With two days of the pills left, however, the tooth, Mary swears, slid off her jaw and deposited itself under her tongue.
I went to visit her.
“Awb tellin ya,” she slurred from between clenched teeth, tears in her eyes, “dat guy’s tryin ta kill me.”
She sipped a Fresca through a straw. “Int’restin fack,” she slurred. “Dey train cadaber dogs wif dead teef. My mouf’s lak a cadaber dog’s trainin groun’.”
Luckily, having lived with a man who believes there’s no need to move the jaw while speaking, I am fully versed in Slur.
“You think a cadaver dog would signal on your mouth?”
“Awb sure ub it.”
The next day, Mary’s friend Becky stopped in. Becky’s mother, Rose, is in an assisted living facility, and Mary visits her a couple times a week. Mary doesn’t have a car during the daytime hours, and visits Rose come hell or high water, via bicycle.
“I’m taking you to my dentist,” Becky said.
“No, no, no…” Mary said, grabbing her coat and her purse.
Pages of paperwork were filled out, but the last page stopped her cold. “All services to be paid in full at time of service.”
“OK,” Mary muttered, “we gotta go.”
Becky put her hand on Mary’s shoulder. “I’m paying.”
Mary stared at her.
“It’s the least I can do. You visit my mother-in-law when I can’t. Let me do this for you.”
Mary burst into tears. “I’ll pay you back. I swear –“
Becky stopped her. “Don’t you dare.”
The second dentist’s response to Mary’s abscessed wisdom tooth was encapsulated in one word: “Whoa”. Several shots of Novocaine later, a little gas to set the mood, and his knee was on her chest and wresting the offending tooth from her exhausted and swollen gums.
The tooth – and the pain – was gone.
“Everything okay, then?” he asked her. “You feeling okay in there?”
Mary grinned, her mouth packed with cotton gauze. She gave him the “thumbs up” sign, the "A-OK" sign, and an earnestly slurred “Ah luh yoo mang”.
"I love you, too," said the dentist.
And just like that, it was over.
Mary is smiling again.
That Summer: Part Four
21 minutes ago