Negative space

I had to drink out of the side of my mouth to get the taste of glue out since half of me was still numb. I went back to the dentist, Dr. Chan, the first time in years, with lots of work to be done. After the hydro-scaling I got hand-scaled, and then it was time to move me, change sunglasses. And with my head thrown back and the two of them in my mouth, it felt pornographic: six of them pulling and pressing and rubbing, drilling and filling me at different pitches and tones, the suction, the doorknob they told me to bite down on, to keep my jaws open: the fact my tongue kept fighting them like a doped-up lizard and the doctor had to pin it down with his thumbs: me, realizing my hands were clasped and lower back arched, butt cheeks clenched, lips cracked: the torture scene from 1984, my face eaten by a rat—or worse, a metaphor, an imagined rat, the savagery of dentistry, Nazis, nerve sacs, small tools, my imagination. The look of my teeth on the flatscreen and my fillings the color of chicken fat, sickly yellow. Dr. Chan, filling me full of composite and topping it off with glue and then sanding it down and cauterizing it, reassuring me you’re doing great, Bill. Doing great.

Reminded of the fact I have geographic tongue, whatever that means. The image of continents taking shape in the form of some unexplained fungus that mutates over time. Reflecting darkly, this is what it means to be a writer: to feel the need to say something even if you can’t, geographic tongue. It gets around, but no one knows how or why, or where it comes from.

When I got home I went right for the beer and the back yard and sat with the cat and a small green bug crawling up my arm, reflecting on the cloud cover, the drooping pansies and peonies, reminded of an image on the eBook I’m writing at work by the header, a logo that forms a negative space that’s soothing, and why?: because the mind needs a place to go without walls, a free space, the place in between the forced imagery where we can let go, and just be.

I got it in my head I needed to fix things around the house and started with the deadbolt latch on the front door that fell off, requires a custom-sized screw I don’t have the patience to find, though I’ve tried. The kids had some gum, so I chewed a piece and balled it up in the slot and stuck the latch back on and then went out in the garage for the carpenter glue to fix the finial cap on the wall clock that keeps falling off from the cat chewing the tip (has bad teeth, chews on things to sooth).

I got that done and then went back to the recliner, put on John Coltrane and felt for my lip but still couldn’t feel it, though it was there.

The client for the eBook doesn’t like white space, wants us to fill it. Doesn’t care for nonsensical paragraph breaks even though they’re not nonsensical, they’re deliberate.

Because we all need a break,

some space to take a breath,

and think for ourselves.

(What’s so negative about that?)

Categories: humor, writing

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

23 replies

  1. Hey buddy, continuing to enjoy reading you. Liked this one so much had to hop in and say hello and you’re awesome. Hope sensation has returned to your lips. I got an achey back tooth myself, ignoring it til my yarrow is high enough to pack it in and see if the old ways still got some efficacy. More of a homesteader these days then a writer (something is brewing tho) but it’s good to see you still taking your shots!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You’re taking suffering-for-beauty (nice teeth) to a new level here.

    Dental torture scenes make me think of Marathon Man though the description of your torture session reminded me more of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’s electroshock sessions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, I hadn’t thought about the Cuckoo nest ref but can see that, in his face. I probably didn’t look much different in my sweat pants, and overdue for my hair cut.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. yes, marathon man. and i cry each and every time i go to the dentist, one of my big fears. makes me wish i could slip into negative space when i’m there. i like your gum filling in the space approach to repair –

    Liked by 1 person

    • Those 6 month check-ups must come up fast for you, Beth! I think for me, it’s a dark fascination and some horror stories from friends. After being off insurance for a while, I’m just glad to be covered again. What was Dustin Hoffman’s older brother’s code name? Something like Sparta? I read that book when I was about 12, loved it. Lots of blood in the very first scene, his brother all shot up.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Man, I’m definitely awake now, excellent! a real full bore blast of images – Rat & Chicken Fat, Orwell & Nazis, Pornographic Pitches & Tones, Chewing Gum Home Repair & the Cat Ate the Finial. And the tongue fighting like a dope-up lizard is just outstanding. I don’t think white space is an issue here, just stuffed with good stuff! What a blast.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha, great! Glad you liked my doped-up lizard, that’s what my tongue felt like, a bar-fighter. Glad you enjoyed Robert, thanks for telling me so. Bill


  5. Nothing comforts a body after a grim dental experience like Coltrane …

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The break is so much needed. I feel your pain since am forever occupied with tooth pain….got two extraction that gotta do when the month ends. It sucks, I know.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Have you read Marathon Man by William Goldman? It’s not for the orthodontically squeamish, and neither was this.


    • I did! As a 12 year old or so, I think…my dad had a copy. Loved that. It’s where I learned about the nerve sac, or pulp, or however he refers to it. Good eye.


  8. Strong images there, Bill. I can almost feel myself in that chair, I hate to think of how many times I’ve been in one, boy howdy.

    Know whatcha mean above white space and ebooks. The ones that don’t space between paragraphs annoy me to the point of going into the source css code (Calibre as a reader/editor, epub format) and adding it. White space in life is pretty useful too.

    Excellent piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Nice ending. Wow, your dentist is much more multi-sensory than mine. All I get is her boob against my head. (Painkiller)

    Liked by 1 person

    • The boob is probably hard for you, being Canadian and likely more repressed than us. Is that fair? You have a bit of English and a bit of French, so where does that net out? I suppose, “Canadian.” I can’t stand seeing my teeth in such detail like that on screen. It reminds me of this terrible record cover I’ve never been able to unsee by a band Coil, or Throbbing Gristle (I always confuse the two). And I think my memory has even slurred that image or gotten it wrong. It’s some kind of teeth-torture image I now associate with bad music from that era.

      Liked by 1 person

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