Zen at the dentist

Observe how satisfying it is to be an object! How satisfying and how rare. Go to the dentist for a scheduled visit and sit in the complicated, humming, reclining chair. Observe your breath as it eddies around the latex of the hygienist’s gloves, sharp to smell but dusty to taste, as she tells you about a show she’s begun to watch with her daughter right after Idol, something about flash mobs on NBC. They are best friends. For her it’s can’t miss TV. She doesn’t care if you can hear her or if you signal back at all.

You are allowed to just sit quiet and stare out the sliding door at the bird feeder. You don’t need to move or make small talk or make restaurant suggestions. You can’t! Your mouth is pried open and there are two hands in it and at least one metal object.

To disappear into the synecdoche, to be your mouth for a whole building full of smocked and comfortably shod pros. A giant mouth, like Eliot’s pair of scuttling claws on the sea floor. To be at the disposal of the staff, to take the ministrations like a champ.

It reminds you of when you were a little boy, of course, and you want to be good for the staff. You like being that little boy again. But it goes further back, it reminds you of what it’s like to be nothing. Before you were born, before you were a person or anything at all. Your self-hood shed for the duration of your scheduled visit to the dentist. There’s pop music, manic children’s drawings all over the walls. To be still. To be manipulated. To be in such a professional and arranged setting but to have nothing at all life threatening. To be taken care of.

Except it’s not all zen because there’s something terribly erotic about it as well. Not the hygienists and the bulky charges of their breasts or their hands with their manicures and wristwatches, or the dentists themselves, moving more stealthily through the rooms. Nothing like that. Nothing personal or particular. In fact, the opposite, the diffusion of particulars and of people.

Me, I close my eyes when I’m there. Does it make them nervous? Because I’ve been asked more than once, Is everything alright in there? It shows, the limbic charge one gets out of emptiness, out of not being, of being nothing more than the three o’clock.

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