Reclined unnaturally in the dentist’s chair, I strained my jaw to keep my mouth open widely, enduring the unsettling pokes and pricks around my top incisors.
As my dentist peered into my cavernous maw, he piped up conversationally, “So, how’s that magazine going? You still writing for it?”
Unable to form proper words without full control of my mouth, I gurgled something that I hoped sounded like a yes.
"You know," he continued in that same casual tone, still prodding and pricking. "I’ve gotta hand it to you. I don’t know how you do it. I can’t imagine writing for a living." He pulled away momentarily and I took advantage of the interruption to rest my stiffening jaw.
"What do you mean?"
He leaned back in his chair and looked at me. “Oh man, I hate writing. I’ve always hated it. I dreaded writing essays in school and I was so excited when I graduated because that meant that I was done with them forever.”
"You can’t imagine writing for a living?!” I bolted upright, as much as gravity would allow, given my impossible angle. I stared at my dentist until the laughter came. “Seriously? What about you?”
"What about me?"
"I can’t even imagine doing what you do for a living! Sticking my hands in people’s mouths every day?!”
Dripping saliva, bloody gums, raunchy breath… I shuddered. He shrugged.
"That’s nothing," he replied. And he meant it. "You write. I just… I couldn’t do that."
I shook my head. “And I definitely couldn’t do what you do.”
"Well, that’s settled, then." It wasn’t a competition, so I’m not quite sure why it felt like one. He slowly raised his glinting silver instruments
of torture back in the air.
I took the hint and returned my body back to its original uncomfortable angle.
I’m not sure that many patients leave the dentist’s office smiling. But that day, I was one of them.