JUNE 30, 2006
“Are you cool with this still?” Gaby asked. I gave her a lopsided grin from the drivers seat; my breathing slowed from nerves. I shut the car off, I was going to overcome one of my fears. We walked in the wooden white door and were greeted by a guy with shaggy, curly dark hair and soft brown eyes. I was dreading seeing him. He called me sweetheart and led us into a back room. I had met him before. The guy seemed tall, with thick, black-rimmed glasses and piercings in his nose, his lip, his ears. He had other piercings all over his body, covered in baggy black pants and a black shirt. It complemented his Batman tattoo, spread out across his neck and more tattoos stretched down his arms. He was intriguing, seductive in a way. We made our way to a little back room. “Have a seat” he said, gesturing to a blue plastic denist-looking chair. The smells of hygienic cleansing products slithered up my nostrils, some vibrations coming from the room to my left were quickening my breath. My eyes shifted quickly to the tools on the counter, they reflected under the halogen blue light above. It was like a display of the shiny metal instruments that lay on the metal tray in a dentist’s office. The room was adorned with horror film posters, needles… bottles of strange liquid, paper towels, a sink, and a box of rubber gloves perched on the edge of the counter. I wasn’t in a dentist’s office. I snuck a quick glance towards the poster with dripping blood to left of me, and settled deeper into the cold, blue, plastic seat.
I started to quiver. I was thinking too much of the needles, thinking too much. I’m afraid of needles. This is the part where I glance at the door and ponder my options. One option being to dart through the door and escape the anxiety, getting out easy… option two, feel the cold hard steel like a sharp bit in my mouth, and face my fears. For as long as I had wanted to do it, I couldn’t let myself down and back out now. I had chose carefully, patiently, waiting for the right person and otherwise prolonging the agony of wanting it done so badly, yet fearing it. The guy was a friend of my friend, they had a long history together. Because she trusted him, I trusted him. I’d met him before and since I was paying him, he had to be nice to me. Right? He handed me the clipboard coolly with the little waver of small print stuff, the stuff I was sure to read. The print that gives my personal promise that I am at least eighteen, my birthday, name, signature, etc etc. I signed off that that I was not a hemophiliac. I wouldn’t bleed to death. My hands quivered as I signed, I couldn’t control it. I couldn’t even sign my name straight, it was wobbly and run-on like a little kid trying to imitate their parent’s signature. Nerves triggered questions.
“You numb it right?” I asked.
“Of course,” he replied. His voice full of a, “whatever helps you sleep at night” sarcasm.
“Ah, you’ll be fine sweetheart,” he said. He grabbed the latex surgical gloves, and dramatically stretched them over his hands, a defined snap of latex at the end. One, snap. The other hand, snap. I heard the clock on the wall ticking. Slowly, painfully methodical it ticked away seconds of an excruciatingly long minute. It was surreal, something out of a movie, the part before the character gets their head screwed into and dissected. The dramatic snap of the latex gloves, the awkward lighting, the small room, and the shiny pointy objects on the counter, it unsettled me. I glanced over at Gaby and her purple hair and raised my eyebrows like a scared puppy, oh my God, it was really going to happen. It was the look that said “I’m about to be penetrated by a foreign body through a vital organ.” At least I considered my tongue a vital organ. Gaby smiled.
He told me to stick out my tongue. I offered it, as if it was a sip of hot tea I was afraid to touch, lips quivering, tongue hesitating, anticipating the pain. He came over and like a sand storm he swept the moisture out of my mouth. I slid my tongue around in the cottony dry oasis of my mouth and tried to make a sound, a whimper. He proceeded to put a little purple dot on my tongue’s pink flesh . Purple, my favorite color. How nice of him. “That look alright?” he asked, handing me a mirror. My limp tongue hung to the side of my mouth, as if it belonged to a dead dog. I nodded, still unable to speak, and my tongue was returned to me. It was stripped of the comforting moisture it craved, so it hung, and I stared at the movie posters.
He walked to the counter, his back towards me and I saw his blue rubber gloved hands picking up hard metal objects on the counter. He came back, wiped my tongue down with a substance, put a semi large stainless steel clamp around my tongue, then twisted the entire contraption over, flipping the lifeless tongue over to check the bottom of the contraption, then let it flop limply down onto my chin. It sat heavily while he went over to fidget with more metal tools and liquids on his table.
As he wiped my tongue with whatever his substance was, I clenched my eyes shut. I taste alcohol, and rubber, cleaning products, or so I thought, marker, even he smelled rubbery clean. I smelt his musk as he leaned over. I saw nothing. I could feel it all, and imagine in my head the horrendous things happening to my mouth, under my eyelids I saw needles and gaping holes I saw the universe, and the galaxy… and then pinched pink flesh between scissors, images my brain painted. He fiddled around with my tongue, long enough for me to peek out under my eyelashes in an attempt to figure out what he was doing. It was useless. My entire brain was unwilling to actually watch, so I proceeded to then focus back on the hard metal grasping tightly the muscle in my mouth. I didn’t know where he had gone, I couldn’t feel him anymore, or Gaby, but I didn’t want to open my eyes! The pressure was annoying, I wanted to mumble, “I want my tongue back now… and my nerves…” But even had I really tried to say it, it wouldn’t have come out, probably wouldn’t have made sense. The pinching pressure was sharper, tighter, and then I felt it.
The long cold needle tore mercilessly through the muscle of my tongue. But it… didn’t really hurt more than a tiny, uncomfortable pinch. I wondered if it was numb, but I felt it slithering its way through the flesh, I felt it all. My tongue lay there, unable to fight back, at the mercy of my decision.
“You’re alright, almost done sweetheart.” He said.
I pictured him smiling. I pictured Gaby watching him do it. His smile could talk any girl out of her better judgment. At this point the guy might as well be able to call me a pet name. He had explored my mouth and I barely knew him before he had his latex covered appendage’s probing around. And then he pulled it out, stuck the bar in, screwed on the ball, and took everything back to his counter.
“You’re all done!” he said.
I finally remembered to open my eyes, seeing first Gaby and my piercer standing side by side in front of me, before attempting to look at my tongue. I sucked my tongue back in my mouth and felt the long, foreign, cold bar that now made its home in my mouth back between my teeth. I lost my fear of needles.