A little story with zero meaningful implications. But it still deserves to be told. Why does it deserve to be told? Every story deserves to be told. It’s not its fault it’s little. I shall keep it short, consistent with its slimness. (That was less an assurance than a reminder to myself.)
Okay. Here we go.
I have a dentist appointment the following day. (Remember that. It matters.)
I’m around sixteen. I am at the movies. In the afternoon. Alone. I can’t remember what movie, or why I’m seeing it alone in the middle of the afternoon. It sounds kind of sad. But I recall no associating unhappiness. It felt like that’s what I wanted. At least, that time. (Knowing what’s coming, this turned out to be an enormous blessing.)
A retroactive confession: I used to chew on pens. Other people chomp on cigars. Gnaw on unlit cigarettes. I don’t do those things. I chew pens instead.
I favored the inexpensive Bic pens that we used in class. Twenty-nine cents. A clear, hard plastic casing, housing a bendy plastic ink tube, with a metal point at one end, a little blue plastic stopper at the other. The accompanying protective blue plastic cap had long since disappeared. So, though unlikely at the same time or place, had the stopper.
I had experienced some “near misses” with those pens. Sometimes, I’d bite down too hard, the end of the pen would crack and sometimes collapse, and I’d be required to extract tiny shards of hard plastic from my mouth, which I would conscientiously retain in my hand to dispose of at a later date. I am a pen chewer. I am not a litterer.
I enjoy the movie, chewing contentedly on the stem of my Bic, the pen sticking straight out of my mouth, point first. Looking back now, this arrested development in the oral arena may have had a lot to do with my having had not a single date in High School. (There may also have been a personality issue as well.)
The movie ends, and I get up to leave. Suddenly, I have this sense that something is not right. An investigation seemed necessary.
I come into the Men’s Room, and I head for the sink, looking into the overhanging mirror, and opening my mouth.
My mouth is entirely blue.
Blue teeth. Blue gums. And most prominently, an entirely blue tongue.
The explanation was obvious. The pen I’d been chewing on had exploded in my mouth. Which was all blue.
It is now time to recall the first sentence of these writings:
I have a dentist appointment the following day.
My entire being reeled with panic and desperation. Which seemed totally appropriate. I have a dentist appointment tomorrow, and when the dentist says, “Open wide!”, he will find himself facing an inky abyss.
The first thing I do is repeatedly cup water into my hand, swish it around in my mouth, and spit. The expectorated water has a detectable bluish hue, but the procedure is, like, ten per cent effective. The inside of my mouth remains ninety percent blue.
Step Two? I rubbed my teeth as hard as I could with my forefinger, struggling to remove the jeans-colored coating. Again, my success rate was only partial. I somehow have it in my head that your mouth turns black when you have scurvy; I wondered, if on its way to black, it ever passed through this color, my concern triggering fears that my dentist, considering me “pre-scurvy”, might feel obligated to report me to some governmental Board of Health?
DENTIST: “I think scurvy’s coming back! There’s a dark-mouthed guy sitting in my chair!”
I had one final strategy. (Note: I could not return home in my condition, as I had been parentally warned against this exact situation: “You keep chewing on pens, you’re gonna end up with a blue mouth!” I just hate it when parents are right.) (Well, not now.)
Nobody wants to do what I was now intending to self-inflict; traditionally, it is imposed as a punishment for using foul language.
That’s right, Ladies and Gentlemen. In a crazed effort to eradicate the discoloration in my mouth, I picked up the bar of soap sitting on the sink,
…and I rubbed it vigorously on my tongue.
A man came in while I was doing this. It was the Men’s Room. He had a right. Catching sight of his entry, I immediately dropped the now blue-stained soap onto the sink, hoping he had not seen me in action. I may actually have pulled it off. Though there’s a chance that the soap bubbles emanating from my lips may possibly have given the game away.
Running out of steam – and no longer willing to risk being caught rubbing a bar of soap on my tongue in a movie theater Men’s Room – settled for the “repair work” I had already accomplished, eschewed any further effort, and returned home. I remained closed-mouth that entire evening, partly to avoid the questions and rebuke that would attend the discovery of my oral desecration, and partly due to anticipatory dread. Tomorrow, I had an appointment, where there was no way to avoid facing the music.
“Wait’ll you hear this!” I could imagine him saying, as he returned home to tell maybe the first “dental story” his family ever wanted to hear. “I worked on a guy with a blue mouth!”
The next day, when I trepidatiously sat in the chair, had the bib clipped on, leaned back, and opened wide…
The dentist didn’t say anything.
It turns out, it was not that big of a deal.
Like you, perhaps, reading this story, I was kind of expecting more.