If I had grown up fifty years later, my mouth wouldn't be in this condition. Now dentists don't inflict pain and in Bangkok at least they are the most soothing people I've ever encountered. I've started to approach the chair of torture without wanting to vomit and with normal blood pressure levels. I'm actually looking forward to next Sunday when my temporary crown is installed and my IQ visibly soars from 5 points to numbers that indicate that I just might know my ABCs.
Yet even without pain and with a dental bill that amounts to 130 US for this latest phase of repair, I still returned home with the sort of energy that's usually associated with Raggedy Anne. Dental drills, their noise and vibration, immediately take me back to Marathon Man; every fiber and muscle in my body clenches against them in an insane form of isometrics and I leave the office limp and exhausted and absurdly wanting to cry.
Bad teeth are the highest form of deadly sin in the Western world. They are a class indicator and a badge of low self-esteem and a symptom of sloth, all rolled into one. People who have never known sadistic dentists look at the generation that Keith Richards and I share and make some rapid snap judgments based upon the attractiveness of a smile. People without dental insurance learn how to conceal the sins within their mouths, or reveal themselves without shame.
"I smile with my mouth closed," a seventy-year-old friend told me, and I replied, "I forget." Keith Richards smiles without revealing his lower teeth, which has to be a long-standing habit because if there's anyone who could afford good dental work...
I hope to be back in Seattle before whatever fragment of summer is alloted to that part of the globe has faded away for another nine months. Some of my deadly sins will be corrected, without pain, shame, or a small fortune involved. I'm blessed that this whole divergence from my well-laid plans happened in Bangkok, where my rent is reasonable, dentistry is affordable, and pain isn't part of the package.