by Jon Ware
Sure, your teeth are falling out. No, by God, your teeth can’t be falling out, and to convince yourself of that you research the matter in-depth online, forcing yourself to spend hours staring closely at thirteen or fourteen pages of assembled photographs of truly revolting sets of teeth (necrotic reddish-purple flesh parted on both sides, the brown jagged roots fully exposed, blood and pus simpering up from the insides) arranged by relevancy on your most trusted search engine, and dashing back to the mirror to confirm that those teeth are not your teeth, that there is, sure, a triangle of visible bone forming at the base of two of your four lower incisors and the lower gum itself, once you peel back your lip until it hurts (why didn’t you think to try it before?) is monstrous, tendons and hanging lines of raw-steak matter and the hard spinal ridge of white beneath that you don’t want to have to be able to notice. Your gums no longer bleed, but they’ve bled before, and it’s possible that your disease has progressed beyond the preliminary stages of bleeding into something worse and, possibly, irreversible; the suffocating dry decay and the bloodless perishing of a most significant part of your physicality. The teeth themselves appear to be longer (but then they’ve always been longer than ordinary teeth, a touch feral and canine, which you’ve always enjoyed, one of the few things you’ve ever enjoyed about your appearance, and what a sorrow it’d be to lose that now) than teeth are supposed to be. And when you place your forefinger upon their edges and wobble it about, they seem to wobble about, too, your teeth, unsteady, coming out, as they came out once before when you were small. For all you know you’re loosening them with all of this over-attentive experimenting to see how loose they are, but it’s hardly as if you’re capable of stopping.
You have bought a third bottle of mouthwash; this variety is specifically branded towards preventing teeth from falling out (PRO-GUM STRENGTHENS GUMS REDUCES THE RISK OF GUM DISEASE FIGHTS THE FOUR CAUSES OF GUM DISEASE – none of the other mouthwashes on the row of shelves speak to you nearly as enthusiastically on this particular subject.) You have flossed, though less than daily and with a considerable amount of difficulty; your hands do not fit in your mouth and you cannot get to anything to make the required C-shape around the individual teeth themselves and so you often give up, having adequately serviced the front while entirely neglecting the rear. You have not visited any dentist, out of the dreadful draining fear (which will prevent you from getting your work done, today and tomorrow and the tomorrow after, while making your jaw ache raw from your licking at your teeth) of their informing you, for certain, that your teeth are falling out, that you’ve only gone and made a ruin of yourself. It has occurred to you that you could only benefit from being hit by a lorry tomorrow, a result which would quite marvellously prevent you from having to go through the experience of your teeth falling out. You have learnt that a certain set of test subjects with a high calcium intake somewhere in America were found to have reduced chances of suffering from their teeth falling out; you contribute towards the steady dwindling of your already meagre finances buying a daily pint of organic milk from the corner shop and swilling it about from cheek-lining to cheek-lining every morning, like mouthwash.
You return to your chair and to the search engine and go through all the results again, but this is ridiculous and quite futile since you’re judging yourself by extreme examples, case studies shocking enough to be recorded and saved, and not by other ordinary human beings and their ordinary undistinguished healthy teeth; of course these freaks online will have worse teeth than yours. Careful; clenching your teeth in anger or in stress will weaken them; hilariously, therefore, worrying about your teeth falling out will only cause them to fall out. So you’ll just have to try to forget all about what’s happening to you, the hateful reality of your teeth and the possibility of their falling out. Dwell instead upon steadfast imagery.
Really you’d need to go out and observe some of the teeth of those other ordinary human beings, to be certain of anything, but you aren’t close enough to anyone else around you to be capable of asking them if they’d mind opening up and letting you jam your ill-fitting hands inside their mouths to get a closer look; and no strangers ever seem to smile at you any more, not in this city.
Jon Ware attended the Warwick Writing Programme; he is currently working as a copywriter in London.