I would like to preface this entry by stating that my parents (bless them) have made a serious investment in my smile. My mom used to drive me to Edmonton from our small town every six weeks to have my braces adjusted, regardless of the weather or the amount of shuffling she had to do to miss a half day of work. She was diligent about getting me there for my appointments, about making me wear my (gack!) headgear at night, and about plucking the chewy and sticky things out of my Halloween bag so I didn’t end up dislodging a bracket.
Maybe this entry should be titled “Misadventures in Orthodontics,” but I’m not going to split hairs. My orthodontist was a sweet little Japanese man, Dr. H., who was always exceptionally gentle with both his instruments and his voice. He had an assistant my mom and I referred to as, “The Redhead.” She was evil. I’m not talking snappish or crisp or even clumsy (the most dreaded trait in dentistry). The Redhead was cruel, and rough while she worked in my mouth. Remember Hellboy? Put some of those sharp and scrapey tools in his rock fist, and you’ve got The Redhead. Except that Hellboy would probably be more considerate around my gums. If the scrubs companies had manufactured their wares in spitting cobra or great white shark prints instead of fluffy bunnies, I’m sure the Redhead would have ordered the predatory varieties in every colour.
Dr. H. had a beautiful office, with yellow vinyl chairs and big windows to let the instruments shine in the sun. The office was always spotless, shiny, and, if you didn’t know about the kinds of things that happened there, you would swear it was a pleasant place, like a preschool where all the kids were toilet trained and no one ever had a runny nose. The issue was that those yellow chairs were all in the same room. That’s right. The other
victims patients got to see every squirm, every tear, and every wad of gauze.
My trips to the orthodontist centered around three major worries:
1. There was a one-in-three chance The Redhead would thrash metal around in my mouth.
2. All the chairs were in one room, so whatever happened, there would be witnesses.
3. I am a projectile vomiter.
I know, dear readers, that you were well aware of the first two issues, and that the third item might have made you stop and chuckle. Let me assure you that there is nothing funny about the way I throw up. I understand that vomiting in general is a nasty, nasty experience. Please understand that when I say, “I am a projectile vomiter,” I am not joking and I am not exaggerating. Call my mom; she’ll back me on this one.
When I throw up, it’s something akin to that scene where Mr. Bean puts the stick of dynamite in the can of paint to re-colour his walls. Remember that one, even the window sills have an even coating? Yeah. It’s kinda like that, but chunkier. When I was hospitalized after surgery a couple of years ago, I reacted badly to the morphine and vomited on someone who had come to visit me. I will clarify by stating that this person was standing at the foot of the bed, and I was lying down at the time.
The only other person I’ve ever know who can puke like me is very famous. She spends the whole movie in her nightie, and when she gets really ticked off, her head spins around. The only thing is, the priest visits and she gets better. I’m beyond hope.
Back to Dr. H.’s office. Picture it: a row of yellow chairs, sunlight pouring in on the terrified youngsters, and a red-headed woman stomping around with sharp things in her freakishly powerful hands. I had my fingers crossed, hoping that my lucky stars were on-duty and that The Redhead would punish someone else.
Out of the corner of my eye, something bright and shiny caught my eye. It turned out to be the smile (yes, braces reflect a lot of light when they’re clean) of the cutest boy my tween self had ever seen. He grinned at me from his yellow chair, turning me into a stammering mushball. He had really good hair, which is the key feature in male attractiveness when you’re twelve. You know, the kind of hair that seems to move in slow motion if he swishes his head around, runs after a soccerball, sneezes, or generally moves at all. He had the longest eyelashes this side of Minnie Mouse, too.
Unfortunately for me, Mr. Good Hair and I didn’t have time to strike up a conversation before The Redhead wrenched my jaw open and started digging around. Doubly unfortunate for me, she started working on the big molars at the back, the ones that hang out dangerously close to my tongue.
I’ll break from the action here to tell you that, in addition to my ability to vomit father than I can throw a shot put, I have a super-sensitive gag reflex. I don’t eat breakfast until after I’ve brushed my teeth for this reason. I’m sure you can see where this is going.
The Redhead kept digging, and a cold sweat broke out along my hairline and eyebrows and in between my toes. I took deep breaths through my nose and prayed to the gods of iron stomachs. I clenched my sweaty hands on the slick vinyl armrests and tried to count backwards from seven thousand. It did me no good.
Luckily for me, The Redhead drew back the sharp tools before my heaving caused me to impale myself on orthodontic pliers. Less luckily for The Redhead, her hands moved faster than her feet. I heard the gorgeous hair model next to me swear and start to laugh. I opened my eyes, now dripping with tears and shame, and saw The Redhead standing stunned before me, her once spotless scrubs befouled with what was left of my breakfast.
The best part is, my mom insisted I eat a light breakfast, given my propensity for upchucking. The Redhead was covered in the green pulp of what was once a couple of kiwi fruits, flecked all over with little black seeds.
You know, my puke really brought out the colour of her hair.
The hair model’s adjustment finished up while I was being wiped down and The Redhead was getting disinfected. I was thankful, because I didn’t have to try to slink past him on my way out, trying to avoid eye contact.
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