Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

I woke up at 4:00 a.m. to the sight of big snowflakes wafting down gently and thickly. There was little traffic, and the streets were unplowed, so everything was coated in pure white. This is one of the few times that even the city radiates peace and magic.

A movement caught my eye. It was a rabbit, probably the silvery old mama, hopping toward the east fence. It looked like something had startled her, possibly one of the maintenance men coming out to clear the sidewalks. I was glad to see she'd survived the bitter cold and wind of the weekend, and I wonder if I can sneak her some spinach later.

What a perfect scene—a snowscape complete with furry proof that life goes on. It reminded me of home.

My vacation has not been restful or productive. First, there was the Friday trip downtown for lumbar spine x rays. Monday I was able to get a 2:00 p.m. appointment at a dental practice I'm not familiar with. I couldn't have an anxiety-free Christmas with the swelling in my gums and pain in my teeth. Fortunately, the wind had died down and the temperature had warmed up—to 10 degrees Fahrenheit. It took about 45 minutes to get to the practice by bus and al (Red Line). The worst part was navigating the untamed, single-lane sidewalks covered with packed snow and treacherous ice.

The staff were very good, from the receptionists and assistants to the dentists (a second came in to look at the x ray). All were so young and attractive that I imagined a hotbed of sex and mentally began writing the nighttime drama. Doctors and hospitals have received their due—why not dentists?

The verdict? A tooth problem or a gum problem—not exactly a surprise (or definitive), but all I cared about was getting it diagnosed (more or less) and treated before too much permanent damage had been done.

After numbing my mouth like it has never been numbed before, not even for my 1998 root canal, the dentist performed scaling in the affected area and finished off by popping in antibiotics. He said his explorer drew no blood—presumably a good sign. If the area hasn't improved by Christmas, I'm to e-mail him so we can look into a root canal and crown. My dentist had warned me that this was coming sooner or later—coin toss—sooner, apparently.

When I rinsed, I couldn't feel the water in the left half of my mouth. What a strange sensation, to have no sensation of any kind on one side. The assistant told me not to eat or drink anything until the anesthetic wore off as I might bite my cheek or tongue. I understood this, as I had seen J. bite through his lip while eating a bagel after a dental procedure. He didn't know it until I pointed out he was bleeding. Profusely.

The assistant also told me, "Don't smile." Clearly this wasn't a matter of health, so I said, "Am I going to scare people?" She answered, "Don't smile."

In their bathroom, I saw that my lips were slightly offset, and the right side curled into a snarl while the left remained frozen. I smiled—and the result was worthy of any horror film makeup artist. I looked like a stroke victim—a mad stroke victim. Even without a smile, the effect was impressive. I scared myself.

On the Jackson Park Express bus, I recognized a man I sometimes see on it in the morning, and I'd guess he recognized me. I think he did a double-take.

Perhaps he found my new look scary.

Or dangerous.

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