At the Dentist's
The dentist's chair is a place of tension for me. In childhood I never cared about my teeth and saw dentists as my nemesis. Then one day in early adolescence I fell as I was getting off my school bus and smashed a front tooth. It got fixed but I'm permanently insecure about breaking it once more. Then last summer, after nearly twenty-five years, it broke again, inducing the kind of trauma in a silent apartment that's difficult to explain.
At least it forced me back to the dentist's chair. Last Friday I went for a small fix of something. I could taste the blood as the dentist was performing a kind of sanding operation. Swallowing was difficult, with the vacuum thing they put under the tongue confusing me, am I meant to swallow or not? My gums were in a state. Apparently I have to start flossing.
The anaesthetic is what made the visit bad. Afterwards in the bathroom, my face appeared lopsided, like I'd had a stroke.
Being a trans woman who doesn't really pass (at least as I see it), every little thing that makes you stand out feels like a life-and-death situation. You can't afford to be too noticeable, eliciting that extra second's stare from the wrong kind of people. Last winter, due to sciatica, I limped sometimes, feeling a lot more eyes on me than usual. On this occasion, in the dentist's bathroom, I waited and waited for my face to normalize. I asked – or slurred, to be exact – if I could wait in the waiting room until my face got better. A forlorn hour went by before I realized it wasn't going to, and so I made the paranoid walk to University, a wrapped scarf covering my face for the next four hours, thinking: I'm a monster, I'm afraid of monsters; I'm a monster, I'm afraid of monsters . . .At least the dentist's chair has lost an element of dread for me. I have to return in two weeks' time, still slightly apprehensive, though not for any pain or the sound of that sanding tool in the dentist's itself, than for the walk that follows, and I'm all tensed up hoping no one's staring. But as with the torture I imagined in the dentist's chair, do they really stare?