Clean Cuspids and A Mouthful of Mortality



“What do you see? A rabbit or a duck?”

The optical illusion glows from a tiny LED screen in front of me, alternating between word games and advice from my dentist on how to prevent gum disease. I wait in my vinyl chaise lounge, sweating under my new wool sweater, exceedingly nervous. Earlier that day, during a routine cleaning, my dentist discovered six cavities that needed filing, which seemed especially extreme considering I have never had one before.

“Do you drink soda?” he asked, staring at the smoky surface of my x-ray slides, pointing to the tiny gray dots in between my teeth.


“Do you eat right before you go to bed?”


“Do you floss?”

“Every night.”


Both of us were equally stumped, which of course put me into a tailspin when I got home, convinced I was clearly doing something that was killing me from the inside out. Was the excessive amount of coffee I consumed changing my pH and making me as acidic and corrosive as a meth lab? Was it the coconut water I drank after yoga every day? Was it the yoga? The stress-induced teeth grinding? The kale? Was it New York?

My six cavities were not simply cavities, but a sign of my own personal end times. First, I would pay $350 apiece to have them filled, and then I would die – obviously the most reasonable and logical trajectory. And so, when I went home, I stomped around the house like a proper baby, feeling positively sorry for my poor, dying ass. [And we all know how I get when I’m feeling weak and mortal.]

Someone hands me a remote to pick something to watch on TV. I flip through the channels, debating between fatal car crashes in Fontana or news report on school district funding, neither of which seem worthy enough a companion for the journey ahead. Finally, I land on I Love Lucy. In this moment I realize there is not enough shamelessly feel-good programming on television and it makes me want to time travel to the 1950s, where I am just a silly little woman with a knee-length skirt and a mouthful of good teeth.

In the end, it doesn’t matter. I’ll spend the next two hours with my eyes closed, tears welling in the corners while I contemplate the loneliness of life and how the dentist just gave me another reason to hate coming back to Los Angeles.

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