Teeth Fragments

by | Dec 8, 2020 | CNF, Issue Eighteen

  1. A father and son were once in my mouth at the same time with a hammer and chisel. My mouth is too small for my teeth, and their task was to make space. There was no pain, but the hits scolded my eardrums. I caught a glimpse of the shattered tooth when it was over, after one of them said that my wisdom teeth had more curves than my body. Their laughs like the ache of a molar when it’s dead; they hadn’t known I had famished myself for years. When I got home, my jaw grew to the size of a bruised heart, the red and blue veins slithering to my ear. The cavity would become infected, but I never went back.

2. Underwater, touching sea-soaked sand, sharks trapeze around Christine Zenato, urging to be petted like puppies. They linger around her palms as if she’s singing to them through touch. One day, she reaches inside a mouth as a row of daggers surround her arm. Zenato retrieves a fisherman’s hook. To relieve their pain, she says. She knows when the moment has arrived for her to insert and pull out the sharp edge. No bite, no teeth on human flesh. After more than three hundred removals, the sharks still ravage around in the moment of the pull, but they come back to lay their heads on her as a gesture of gratitude.

3. Where are your baby teeth? Did she keep them? Your mother. Or did she throw that part of you away as soon as it left your body?

4. If our teeth were bones, they would heal themselves after chipping. The decay, whether one cavity or sawed-off molars from sugar, can’t be healed. It can be halted to show a more aesthetically-pleasing façade. A serial killer—with more than ten murders and ten rapes—ignored his teeth to an extent that a composite police sketch saved some space just to show the rot of his gums. When caught, Richard Ramirez spent more than two decades on death row, where dentists worked on perfecting the remaining teeth inside his mouth with taxpayer money.

5. To teethe. I marvel at the e at the end. How this one letter converts a noun into a verb, how it evokes the fussiness of a child, the desire to bite and alleviate torn gums. When I want to translate this verb into Spanish, the need to use too many words in a plump sentence leaves me disappointed.

6. My mouth has been numbed by anesthesia more times than I can recall. As a teenager, metal chained my teeth twice. My teeth rebel—the gums too dainty and weak. The dentists tell me they don’t know why my gums change from the color of fallopian tubes in some parts to the dark of puddle water in others. Do what you need to do, I say. When too much time passes, I miss the anesthesia injection penetrating the roof of my mouth, as if longing for the preceding moment of the pull squeeze drill waver strike when I already know feeling will be absent.

7. I hadn’t heard about the tooth fairy until there was no way I could believe in it. Not because I didn’t receive cash from my parents. I did—whenever I failed to swallow a tooth and felt a gap in my gums the size of my wants. But in my first language it was a mouse’s duty to remove the tooth from under my pillow and leave the cash. I would imagine the switch of tooth and bills with its snout, making sure I didn’t wake. No fairy, no wings, no stories made in my image. But, like in all recounted myths, the tooth serves as payment to another being as an ode to who you once were.


Author’s note: (After Christine Byl’s Bear Fragments)

Read more CNF | Issue Eighteen

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