“Do you have any last requests before we send you in for the day? Any allergies, things we need to know before the testing?”
“Yeah, I’m going to need a valium if you’re expecting I’ll let a stranger touch me. Also, I’d like my dentist to be Korean. Not a gyopo and not an American, an honest to God Korean, born and raised in Korea and planning to head back there after grad school.”
“I think we can arrange that.” She smiles.
“Really? Fuck, well, I guess this is it, then.”
“Yep, go right in.”
My last Korean doctor misdiagnosed me with scoliosis and high blood pressure because I cowered and panicked whenever he came near me. He was like the grim reaper, always reporting that my pneumonia wasn’t improving and that I would die if I didn’t stop smoking. But he was the only one who would take note of it if I survived or didn’t, so in spite of that, I kind of liked him.
My room was empty but for his visits, the syringe in my arm hooked up to a feed, the nurses humming and twittering, my cigarettes and my matches.
I made it out of there somehow to be with this young Korean dentist now, it feels like a full 360 even though I’ve come so far, and it doesn’t seem fair to me.
“You’ve held onto that baby tooth for much too long now, you know.”
“I know, I’m sorry-please don’t take away my teeth.”
They stick metal rods in my mouth and strap my chin into a machine, where I can see my face with a red cross superimposed on it and satellites spinning around, taking pictures, x-rays, I wear various lead aprons, I keep apologizing.
“Please, please. Don’t take my teeth.”
“Your teeth are actually quite lovely, the color and the shape of them.”
“I know! That’s why this is such a tragedy. I’ve gotten compliments on them from people who aren’t even dentists. Doctor, please, don’t take my teeth away from me.”
“You understand that this is not a punishment?”
“…Huh. Who says it isn’t? Can you confirm that? Because it really feels like if I could just charm you enough, you would save them.”
“I’ll do my best. Bite down, now.” He makes molds and calls in specialists and orthodontists and I wish I wasn’t in Boston. I hate the buzzing of the city. I make sure to talk to him about Korea.
He likes me, I grow on him. And then, he takes my teeth in spite of everything.