I am doing my nightly flossing routine when I notice it, the pink flesh of the gum curled back just above my left, I guess if you were looking at me it would be your right, cuspid, leaving the tooth unsightly, long, I pause, twist my head back and forth in the mirror, pull my lip back, yeah the gum is higher above the left, I guess if you were looking at me it would be your right, cuspid, the gum line looks even above all my other teeth, or at least I think it looks even, I trace the gum line with my tongue, I touch the cuspid tooth where it meets the gum and feel a wiry pain, “Shit” I say, “Shit”, I try to remember, was it like that yesterday, did it look like that a week ago, or a month ago, maybe even, maybe even a year ago, but I can’t remember, or tell, as this is the first time I have noticed it, I trace the gum line again with my tongue, “Shit” I say, I go to my room, I leave the light on in the bathroom and I go to my room, turn on the computer, log online, look to see who is online, I see my ex-girlfriend is online, I send her a message, I say “Sorry to bother you out of nowhere, but when you were with me did you ever notice if the gum line above my left, I guess if you were looking at me it would be your right, cuspid was receding?” “What? What are you talking about” she says, I mean she is typing, “I don’t know, I don’t remember”, I say “You don’t remember, but then is it possible that it was”, She says “What tooth is the cuspid”, I say “Canine, you know, cuspid, canine, same tooth”, She says “I don’t think it was, but I’m not sure”, I say “So it is possible it was, but you just didn’t notice”, She says “Yeah, I don’t know, I don’t remember or didn’t notice, but I guess that means it was possible that it was, but I don’t remember or didn’t notice”, “Shit” I say, “How are your parents doing” She asks, and I sign offline because I don’t need that shit, or don’t need to deal with that shit, not right now, I click on My Computer -> My Documents -> My Pictures, I circle through photos of myself smiling, I note the date of each one, I put my face close to the screen, I squint, was the gum line above the cuspid receding or not, I click through some more pictures, find one where I hate myself doing a big goofy grin, I put my face up to the screen, I squint, I zoom in but the image pixelates, “God dammit” I say, “God fucking dammit”, all the while molesting with my tongue, I type google.com, I type big gum line, No, That’s not it-, missing gum line, Receding gum line, That’s it, Gingival recession, “Sensitive teeth – Teeth become sensitive to hot and cold or to sweet, sour, or spicy foods. If the cementum covering the root is not protected any more by the gums it is easily abraded exposing the dentin tubules to external stimuli.”, Have I noticed any additional sensitivity from external stimuli, I don’t think I have noticed any, I get up from my chair, I leave the bedroom, I leave the computer on, I leave the article about Gingival recession on the screen, I go to the kitchen, I open the fridge, I pour myself a glass of cold milk, I swish it around in my mouth with an intense focus on the left side, I guess if you were looking at me it would be your right, But I don’t notice anything out of the ordinary, nothing peculiar so to say, I take another swig and swish, I notice the coldness of the milk, but did it always feel this cold, Or does it now feel colder, Does my tooth feel more sensitive now to the cold milk than it used to, I’m not sure, I swish and swallow, I brew a cup of hot coffee, I repeat the same steps with the hot coffee as I just did with the cold milk, It doesn’t hurt, But maybe I notice the heat of the coffee more than I used to, I don’t know what to do, so I take my phone out of my pocket and the first contact is my brother, who I haven’t spoken to in 1 year and haven’t seen in probably close to 2 years, but I think, who knows someone better than their own brother, right, so I call him, and before he can finish saying “Hello”, I say “Hey, It’s Steven”, “Steven! Man! How are you!” he says, and I say “Look I know we haven’t spoken in awhile”, and he says “Yea, like two years or something”, and I say “No, one year”, and he goes “Really? Are you sure?”, I say “Yeah”, “I think two or at least it feels like two” he says, and I say “I’m sorry but look, I am kind of in a hurry and I have a weird question, last time you saw me did my cuspid seem unsightly long to you?”, and he says “Cuspid? Which one is that again? Is that like the vampire fang?”, and I say “Yea, but you know, some old drawings have depicted vampires with their front two teeth as the fangs, but anyways, it’s the one that would be a dog’s fang”, “Yea, a dog’s fang”, “Yea the canine” I say “my left canine so if you are looking at me it would be on your right”, he goes “I don’t know, I don’t really remember, or I don’t remember noticing that, why?”, I say “While I was flossing tonight I think I noticed it receding but I cannot remember if it has always been like that or if this is a new development”, and he goes “Oh shit, yea, I know a guy that that shit happened to, he brushed too hard or whatever and he had to get some surgery or something where they take a piece of skin from the roof of your mouth and graft it onto where your gums are or else he could have lost the tooth or some shit”, I say “Lose the tooth?”, He goes “Yea, but anyways, how the hell are you?”, I start to panic at this moment and I say “Look, I’m sorry, as I said I’m in a hurry and I have to go but call me tomorrow and we’ll catch up on everything”, I didn’t say I promise because I knew if I would have said I promise I would have felt some kind of obligation, and then I’d have to take his call and have a long talk about everything that is happening, and or has happened, so I hang up, I run back to my room, the article on “Gingival recession” is still on my computer screen, I read beyond where I had stopped previously, it says something about cavities in the exposed notch or exposed root of the tooth and losing the tooth or the tooth becoming loose and being lost, But I can’t really focus because the screen is kind of shaking, I shuffle my feet in a kind of anticipation, I need to call my dentist, I need to make a dentist appointment, but if I call him now I will just get the machine, it is after hours and all, so I have to wait until morning, but so I decide to call anyway and leave a message about my problem so that when he gets in, first thing in the morning, he will hear it, and expect me to come by, there isn’t anything else I can do, So I decide I’m going to go to bed, yes, I am going to go to bed, I turn the light off in the bathroom, I go to bed, but here is the thing, once I get in bed, I can feel the tooth throbbing, if I turn my head a specific way on the pillow I swear, and I swear to gee ohh dee, that it escalates the throbbing, and all the while I am fondling the gum line with my tongue, I’m not sure if I can sleep, If I can fall asleep I mean, I just feel a throb, throb, throb, and I am caught in this cycle of turning my head in this specific way, like the tide coming in and sucking out.
Freddy Ruppert currently writes and composes in Prague. http://www.freddyruppert.com