• The poetry of details

Tow The dentist or The fake funeral.


I was 10 years old when I first went to the dentist on my own. And I remember every step of that day, from the talk with my mom until the moment I said goodbye and left the medical office. My mom and I were in our kitchen - she was wearing an apron decorated with small polka dots, which matched her genuine friendliness and loving smile. She looked very tall that day - the room was bathed in the first rays of morning sun - and her shiny hair was swept-back. She was standing near the sink, washing some vegetables and promised to make the most delicious meal for the time I will be back. "There's nothing to worry about, my lovely daughter. Just go right in and tell the nurse you have an appointment to see Ms. D. And she will take care of you - she's a nice lady, and you will be done in a heartbeat." I vowed to be brave and be home as soon as I am done.


I was quite excited to reach my destination, and I playfully went down the stairs - climbing the handrail as it was a toboggan and sliding until there was nowhere to slip further. It was my favorite way to reach the ground floor, and there was no one around me to prevent me from achieving a new personal record. I then crossed the playground diagonally, entered the parking lot, took a left, and I found myself in front of the medical office. I climbed a couple of stairs, and I took a sit in the waiting area, expecting for someone to call my name. I was alone, and the room was darker than our kitchen, although it had a bigger window. I chose a seat that allowed me to look at the trees: it was summer, the birds were singing, and there was nothing to be afraid of.


A couple of seconds later, five people came in. There were three girls and one guy, all trying to encourage another girl - they were there for emotional support. I didn't realize that at the beginning, I thought they all had appointments. I couldn't understand why the girl was so scared - she had tears in her eyes and kept saying it is the last place on earth she wants to be. One of her friends started laughing "Honey, I'm going to tell you a story, and you can tell me at the end if you still want to trade places." As she began to tell the story, I found out they were all in high school - so 7-8 years older than me - and I was about to listen to the grandma incident.


"You know, she's like an ordinary grandma - she has a small house in the village and a big garden, and Maria... You all know Maria, she's the friend of my brother. Of course, you remember her - she has dark hair and green eyes. Yes, well Maria spends every summer in the backyard, at her grandma's place. They painted the whole house last year and this summer her grandma decided to go on an adventure. She faked her own funeral because she wanted to see how she looks in a coffin."


People started laughing calling on the person who narrated the story. "You're lying. There is no such thing." That was the moment they all looked at me. Up until that point, they didn't even notice me. "Stop saying silly things, you're scaring the little girl." I was silent the whole time, and I wanted to say something back, but the guy was faster than me. "She's not scared, look at her eyes. She's curious about the ending. We all are, go on with the story" and smiled at me. I nodded in agreement and looked at the girl who explained how it all worked.


"You know, the person who died has to be buried in nice clothes - "the Sunday outfit" - so they picked a very nice coffin, the clothes were prepared, the family was invited, neighbors and even the priest came in the evening. The "deceased" was in position, having her hands on her chest and flowers around her body. The candles were lit, and everyone in the room was wearing black. People were pretending to cry, the priest was saying prayers, and the photographer was taking pictures. It all lasted for about fifteen minutes until the grandma decided it was all over. So she rose from the coffin, saying she got stuff to do, thanking everyone for being next to her. The odd thing is - nobody told the photographer about the little experiment, and the poor guy fainted."


The second the story was over, the girl who came in almost crying was done with her dentist appointment. I didn't even notice she was gone, I was so captivated by the story that I immediately thought about my grandma, about our little village, about the stories I heard in the late summer evenings - all the horror stories about Dracula, werewolves, full moon and so on. My parents explained to us - as we were growing up - about death, about traditions and the appropriate behavior in these situations, about crying and fear. But this was another type of story, and I wasn't scared. I wasn't scared to sit in the chair while the nice lady filled a cavity; and from that day on, I was no longer afraid to be around a coffin.


As I write these words, I imagine that the fear of dentists stems not so much from the experience of pain, but maybe from the lack of control that patients experience in the dentist's chair. We experience physical pain in one form or another; but in this particular case, you're lying prone, a dentist is hovering above you, and she's putting you in a situation where you can hardly talk. "What have you done lately?" the doctor asks, as you are with your mouth open and can't respond, so you just mumble some sounds and hold tight. You don't feel in control, but maybe that's the catch.


Maybe next time you're going to the dentist, you'll see it as an adventure. You imagine that there are worst situations you could find yourself into. And maybe, if you're lucky, there will be a guy there who will wink to you goodbye - a small reassuring gesture that will make you smile. Or you will make someone else smile - after all, we still have teeth.


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