Saturday, November 3, 2012
Pretty Morning + Speicheldrüse
I'm sitting in a dentist's chair, lying there, actually, and he's drilling an old filling out of an old cavity in an old tooth.
OH! he says.
He directs the assistant to vacuum up the piece of the tooth that has chipped off.
No harm done, he says. We're putting a cap on it anyway.
Easy for you to say, I think, my mouth full of a suction device, a drill, and plenty of fingers.
He continues to drill until he hits a nerve or activates a nerve or whatever is the case and I wince. Then again. And a third time. This is painful.
Does it hurt? the dentist asks.
He pulls out his huge needle and syringe and plunges it into my jaw muscle. And again.
He continues to drill.
I wince again. He drills. My mouth fills with spit. The assistant suctions it out. It fills with spit. She suctions. Suddenly a word comes to me, a word I haven't seen or used for 40 years: Speicheldrüse!
It's not a curse (although it might well be). It means salivary gland.
My mind turns to the end of Thomas Mann's first novel, Buddenbrooks (1901). Thomas Buddenbrooks sits in a dentist's chair while the dentist, named Brecht, tries to pull a bad back tooth. The extraction goes on and on. Buddenbrooks suffers extraordinary pain. Dr. Brecht sweats with exertion. There's a sudden tug and the dentist swears and stands there holding the crown of the tooth in his pliers.
The crown broke off from the roots, he tells Buddenbrooks. That's all we can do today. You'll have to come back tomorrow and I'll cut out the roots.
Thomas Buddenbrooks leaves the office, steps onto the street, turns a full circle and falls dead into a puddle of water.
That's all for today, my dentist says. My assistant will fit a temporary cap and you'll come back in a week when the permanent cap will be back from the lab.