There was a time in my life when I wasn’t the clumsiest person on the planet. Granted, that time was before I reached age 10, but in the third grade I was the most athletic I’ve ever been in my life. During gym class I was consistently one of the first two girls picked to be on someone’s team. I was in my prime. Basically, I was a lean, mean, running machine and there was no better chance to show it off than at recess. One day, I was running around my elementary school’s playground playing tag with some classmates. I went to a public school in the inner city. The playground was what we called the concrete parking lot surrounded by brick buildings behind the school. No swings, No slides, just your imagination. As I was running away towards the safe zone (the side of a building), Mario, who was chasing me, speeds up to tag me. I stretched out my arm and just as the tip of my fingers brushed against the wall Mario pushed me as hard as he could. I slammed face first into the brick wall. At first, I felt my face get warm and as I slowly peeled myself from the wall I noticed my front tooth felt loose. I brushed my tongue against it and half the tooth disintegrated immediately. I turned around slowly, tears streaming down my face and sprinted towards Mario determined to knock his front teeth in. The teacher stopped me and sent me straight to the nurse who had the unpleasant task of calling my mother and explaining why her daughter was disfigured.
As luck would have it, picture day was a few days later. Somewhere out there, there is a school picture of me smiling widely showing off my one and half front teeth.
My mother not wanting her daughter to spend the rest of her life with an imperfect smile took me the nearest dentist who would see me without dental insurance. This turned out to be the Columbia University Dental School where a student did his best to complete the other half of my tooth. It wasn’t perfect but it did the job.
The following year my sister and I were playing a game of tag in the bedroom we shared. The room was tiny with a red metal bunk bed in the middle of the room. Because of the size of the room we made up new rules to tag: one person closed her eyes and chased the other one until she was tagged. I moved around the bedroom with my eyes closed trying to catch my sister when I felt her t-shirt brush my hands. Just as I was about to grab her she slammed my head into the bunk bed.
There went my tooth again.
I ran to my mother and explained what my sister had done hoping to get her in trouble. However, my mother was fuming with anger because she’d told us not to play that game in our bedroom. We were both punished for breaking my tooth. To this day I still don’t understand why I had to be punished as well. I was the one who’s front tooth was broken in half again and of course picture day was a few days away once again (this time I didn’t smile. I learned my lesson the first time).
We went back to the dental school where a new student tried his best to complete my tooth. It wasn’t perfect but I was not coming back to that place again. I like to blame my lack of athleticism on the fact that I don’t want to have my tooth broken a third time. I’ve spent the last 18 years with my pseudo fixed tooth and grew accustomed to how it looked. To be honest, unless I told someone about it they could never tell it was ever broken.
A few weeks ago at my annual visit to the dentist my dentist pointed out that my tooth was awful. “Whoever you went to did a terrible job,” she said. I nodded in agreement. I didn’t have the heart to tell her it was a dental school student who was using me as a guinea pig. “I could fix it and make you beautiful” she finished. I don’t know if it’s because she said I would be the most attractive person ever (that’s what I understood) but I agreed in an instant. For the last couple of weeks she’s been working on my tooth to make it better than it was. Root Canal, tooth impression, filled in, filed down. Every week a new process and last night she finished the second to last step. A temporary crown before she put the final porcelain tooth in. “There! Even this temporary tooth looks better than what you had before” she said and stood up to walk out the room. “make an appointment for the permanent crown in 2 weeks.” I got up from the dentist chair and walked towards the mirror in the exam room. I smiled and what smiled back at me was someone who looked like a bunny.
My two front teeth stick out in a way that makes me look related to bugs bunny. I am horrified. Hopefully, when the real tooth is completed I look more like myself. If all else fails, I’ll have to lift my ban on playing tag so I can break my tooth in half for a do over.
Anyone out there know a good dentist? Is it ok to look like a bunny in your late 20’s? halp! (that typo is on purpose).