Touched A Nerve

‘To evoke a strong emotional reaction, such as anger, sadness, or disgust, upon being encountered, heard, read, etc.’ Why do the words, or actions of others evoke such strong emotional reactions? Whether it be Anger, Disgust, Fear, or Sadness. Why are the uttered words, abstruse behaviour; why have they the ability, the power to ‘make us upset, hate someone, want to kill, protect ourselves?’

Around about a year ago, mid-speech, I paused to feel a sharp solid object roll from the median down to the tip. At the tip rested a fine, glossed piece of enamel. Confused, I placed the piece of enamel in my left palm to resume my response. My mother and I were speaking with a mortgage advisor, and the meeting would not end for another thirty-odd minute. So, in my palm shook my dice of choice as we sat through our round at the craps table. We left unfavoured; which, justified, frustrated my mother and in my attempt to calm her, I lose track of the dice and subsequently, the fact that my fucking tooth was chipped.

On the 17th of June 2019, four-plus years after my last dentist appointment, I walked into my local dentist for a check-up on my chipped tooth. I had reached my pain threshold, a point I didn’t think possible. I could no longer bear the sleepless nights, the inability to chew on both sides, or the sharp, throbbing aches caused by extreme temperatures. I finally gave up. I not only felt the effects of a damaged tooth, but they were also now made visible. My right jaw, a thick, full lump of muscle. My left, a thick, full lump of lard. Shit looked and most definitely, felt uncomfortable. Minutes into the check-up, my dentist delves into her no smoking ad pitch, my damaged tooth being its focus, and I couldn’t help but think ‘no shit Sherlock.’ I understood and agreed with everything she said; the fact that I did is exactly the reason why smoking, junk food and all other forms of coping mechanisms are just that, coping mechanisms.

The memory resides, the pain lay dormant, patient with its hunt. The vast array of prey, experiences, unwitting to its desires. Every second, a possible victim of its ambush. It may not occur today or tomorrow, for time is a figment of its imagination. But, the memory resides, the pain lay dormant, patient with its hunt.

As I drizzle remnants of the blood infused mouthwash, set aside the half-filled cup; then turn to face my dentist, I listen as she recites the set price and procedures. She details how fortunate I am for ‘taking action on the damaged tooth, now’ as opposed to a later date. Whether it was the truth or just a marketing ploy, I’d already committed to resolving the issue; no price or procedure could waver my commitment to alleviating the pain. I was a day from starting my new role as a Teaching Assistant. I’d set aside funds and the afternoon to do some light shopping. ‘Dentist in the morning for a check-up, that’s no more than twenty-five pounds, and I’ll treat myself to an afternoon of shopping, a pretty chilled day.’ So, I thought. Later that morning, sold on the three sessions, two hundred and sixty-nine-pound procedure, I could no longer afford my afternoon out. I chose to prioritise my damaged tooth because I had a better understanding of its state and effects, and it was ‘only a matter of time before it was dead.’

It’s the second of three procedures. Each tooth under the maintenance of a two-woman turbo jet wash, I relax and open my jaw wider for the numbing of my gum. ‘Raise your hand if you feel any pain,’ she says. As the needle, or whatever sharp utensil used, touched my gum, my left hand shot up with force. It felt like I’d been thumped by a two hundred miles per hour cricket ball. I could not comprehend the pain since my gums were supposedly numb. So, another dose was applied, and another, and two more until my dentist decided its best we reschedule. The pulp tissue was inflamed, and in her words, ‘my nerve is angry today.’

Awareness is cool, but have you met her sexier, mature sister, Action? She’s five-two, and fine too. Awareness, prisoner to her impulses, pales in comparison to her sister. Nonetheless, she remains a key player, the guide, in our stride for peace. She’s a survivor, a brute force willing to take all responsibility, defending her view of reality. She’s soulful, yet fragile, fearful of what is and could be. And, without surrender to what is, she remains her own victim. Awareness, rendered useless until we elicit the help of her sexier, mature sister, Action.

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