Periodic Pondering:
A Grown Up at the Dentist’s (Part 1)


I just got to the dentist’s!

I type into my phone and hit send. Not quite satisfied, I add:

I’ll see you tonight.
The surgery is supposed to end at around 5.
Love you.
😊

I turn off my phone before stuffing it resolutely into my purse. Kris should be home by then, I think to myself. I let out an inaudible sigh and look up at the clock on the wall behind the reception desk where Kathy and Sandy, the lovely receptionists at Dr. Gould’s office, are seated.

1:30 p.m.

I feel my rather heavy lunch — a grilled cheese, with an extra large handful of potato chips — churn restlessly in my stomach, partially because I rode my bike to the dentist’s office but also partially due to my nerves. Out of view behind the reception, the unmistakable and needlessly frightening whirring of some dental apparatus or another, punctuated by occasional whimpers and sobs, makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.

“You’re doing so well, Carly. I’m so proud of you, and I bet your mom is, too.” I hear Dr. Gould saying soothingly to his little patient. “Just a little more and we’re all done, and then I’ll give you some candy,” he adds kindly. I hear tiny sniffles, followed by cooing reassurances from Carly’s mother — and then the whirring resumes.

“I feel my rather heavy lunch churn restlessly in my stomach, partially because I rode my bike to the dentist’s office but also partially due to my nerves.”

I grab for a Seattle Met magazine on the coffee table next to me, flipping callously through page upon page of beautiful food photography knowing full well I won’t be able to eat anything other than gruel for at least the next week. Then my stomach does another turn, and a warm wave of nausea washes over me. Why do I torture myself so, I muse.

Seated three seats down from me in the waiting room is a middle school-aged boy, backpack splayed at his feet and hair flopping into his eyes, sketching furiously away on a stack of notebook paper he’s grasping in his prepubescent hands. He doesn’t look bothered in the slightest, I think. He’s a lot braver than I am.

I won’t lie. Inside I’m scared AF. But of course, I’m like 28 now, which probably means it’s no longer socially acceptable for me to be crying in the waiting room at the dentist’s. Being a grown up kind of sucks, I think bitterly.

Just then, a woman carrying a little girl — her little golden head buried in her mother’s chest with lollipop in hand — steps into the waiting room from the realm beyond. Carly’s mother gently strokes her daughter’s hair as she walks up to Sandy at the reception desk.

“Doctor says we need to come back in a month or two for another filling,” she says. “ Let me check my calendar, sweetie.” She tries to put down the resisting Carly, who doesn’t look to be more than a 6-year-old who’s pouting and about to cry. Internally, I wish I could cry too.

“But of course, I’m like 28 now, which probably means it’s no longer socially acceptable for me to be crying in the waiting room at the dentist’s.”

Just when I think there’s no stopping the oncoming barrage of tears, the boy seated next to me stands up, note paper in hand, and walks up to Carly and her mother. He kneels down in front of the little girl, who’s temporarily forgotten about her sorrow.

“I drew this for you,” he says, and hands her the masterpiece he’d been working so earnestly on.

It’d be nice if there were someone here for me, I think. While my faith in humanity and sibling love are somewhat restored, I’m still thoroughly anxious about my impending procedure.

“Celeste? We’re ready for you.” Kathy’s voice snaps me back to reality. I stand up and pick up my purse, which now feels heavier than I remember it being. The weight of dread, I think mournfully as I make for the torture chamber where I’ll be sequestered for the next few hours.

I take one last glance at Carly, who’s now grinning brightly at her brother, before I head inside. I put on a smile of my own — the most congenial and confident one I can muster.