It’s the day I lose what’s left of my wisdom. There’s not much. I’m not sure I really ever had any, and if I did, it was probably on loan. Out they go, the teeth that should have been liberated twenty years ago. The waiting room is all morning television and fluorescent light. Outside, a piece of plastic tries to strangle the branch of a tree. Three other people wait for their names to be called like they’ve made an appointment for a mugging. A large man in a plaid overcoat talks to his ride about every little thing that can go wrong with wisdom tooth extraction. This is his way of overcoming his nerves, I say to myself as I read my book harder. Reading harder means I ask my husband if he will listen as I read to him. He's reading something by Pynchon, and seems happy to oblige, but he also knows it will relax me to read out loud. I hope this will block everything else out, but in this case I only hear the plaid patient's freight train nervousness over E. B. White’s essay titled "Poets". It goes something like this:
These are busy days for poets. There’s dry socket. You hear about that? Now happily, those days will soon be over; because America is to have an authoritative listing of major poets. I was pretty damned wobbly the last time I walked outta here. All a person need do, when confronted by a doubtful bard or a poem of uncertain proportions, will be to thumb through “Who’s Who in American Poetry” to discover if the writer has attained his majority. Yeah, it could get so bad you pass out. You might throw up.
I hope anesthesia is like an elevator ride. You get on, press the button, and for awhile you’re really nowhere – between floors. Ding! You’ve arrived, awake again. I think I might have interesting visions. Maybe I’ll see my dad, or my grandmothers, or some Gordian Knot will be cut. I finally understand string theory! I can juggle!
My blood pressure beeps up anxiety. There’s a television in the new room too, where they’ve taken away my book and glasses, and connected me to enough wires to keep me cataleptic. A couple of missed veins later, a needle full of something that makes me feel like I’ve had a few glasses of wine, and claret swims behind my eyes. I’m between floors without knowing I’ve even stepped onto the elevator. I am not anywhere.
My husband tells me my heart rate went up when the nurse asked me if I was ok. It went down when I was told he was in the room. That’s the room I always want to enter when I get off the elevator. The one with him in it.