The walk to the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery office takes you down long hospital corridors roofed with rounded glass. Like moving through hamster tubes, or being human Zhu Zhu pets, which are battery operated hamsters that made for a enjoyable Christmas item two years ago.
I want to run into walls and exclaim "Uh Oh!" when my delightful pink button nose is pressed, than laboriously back up and turn in a different direction.
Elsie next to me lets out a little yelp and shouts something in her fake Japanese.
I am taking her for a denture fitting.
She is only twenty, but a steady intake of candy, chips, and pop, paired with a willful ignorance of the four basic food groups of hygiene (Mouth, Hair, Butt Stuff, Feet) turned her teeth into ragged brown ruins.
On her first visit to the dentist in seven years, they yanked every tooth without hesitation.
Sometimes I watch her mouth while she eats, just to see how she tackles the problem of gumming some of her favorite foods. Doritos do not look so good when eaten that way, ditto anything from the "Crunchy" half of the Taco Bell menu.
I have never been to the waiting room of a Maxillofacial Surgery office before.
There are people here without tongues, bottom jaws, whole sides of neck just up and gone. A parade of old men come through, telling jokes to the nurses in voices that sound like robots made out of gravel.
One of them even has an Artificial Larynx device, a little microphone that hovers over a hole in his throat.
"God bless you," he says to the checkout nurse. It's like the voice of a Speak'n'Spell.
I add "Dental Cancer" to my list of things I don't want to happen to my body. Then, in italics, I write, do they call it that? Then I frown, because writing in italics by hand feels stupid. If anyone ever finds this notebook, I don't want the first thing they say about it to be "these italics are the worst".
What do you want to be the first thing they say about it?
"This person was a genius and the world is terrible now because he is dead".
Elsie dozes off in the examination chair, a white bib tied around her neck. I can hear a steady stream of anime soundtracks coming from her Skullcandy headphones.
The yips and shrieks of little helium inflated Japanese singers sound like she has smuggled a tiny person into the office under the puffs of her dirty blue vest, and that person has gone completely crazy in a very tiny way.
The doctor tries to ask her if she has a sensitive gag reflex.
"What is it?" she mumbles.
"Are you going to barf when she puts stuff in your mouth?" I ask. I am good at breaking things down so real folks can understand them. I don't tend to play around; I use words like "barf" and "poop" because those words belong to the people.
"I don't know," Elsie answers. I roll my little rolly seat a little bit further away.
"Well, you're gonna find out in a minute!" I say, letting out a hearty chuckle. No one else matches my chuckle or raises with an out and out laugh, though the doctor does avert her eyes from my area of the room, which could be intuited as concealed amusement.
Elsie whimpers as a giant metal colander covered in pink frosting is shoved in her mouth. For I second I feel like I should hold her hand or something, but when she gets a minute to breath, she shoves her fingers into her mouth and displaces wads of goo. I lose my appetite for comfort.
Though it is better here then back at the classroom. We have new students for the summer, and several of them are a bit dicey.
One of them, a large blond man-child named Chad, came in the first day with a foot long piece of brown and tan fuzz. On the anterior end of the fuzz were affixed two large novelty googly eyes.
He called this thing Weasel.
Weasel spent most of the day either under his nose, looking like a ridiculous hipster moustache, or unnervingly close to his groin. Sometimes, he moaned aloud as Weasel traveled from his ankles to the very top of his head. It occurred to me that Weasel probably did not belong at school, and after calling his regular year staff to confirm my suspicions, I knew the time had come to expel the creature.
"Chad, you need to put Weasel in your locker. Don't bring him to school anymore." Chad's eyes are a tremendous shade of melancholy gray, and when he slowly raised them up to mine, I broke and looked away.
"Chad," I said, studying my shoes, "you can't have toys at school-" I had barely spoke and he moaned over top of me.
"Put Weasel away now," I persisted.
Chad stood and walked to his locker. Weasel dangled by his side, it's strange bulbous eyes looking back at me, vacuous yet sinister.
"Weasel," he whined quietly. "Weasel."
I stood by him while he slammed the locker door shut, Weasel stowed away safely inside.
Without warning, Chad charged into me, through me, really, because although I am corpulent, I tend to be unsteady, less of a resting boulder and more of a windblown camping tent big enough for six. We stumbled around with each other, then toppled onto the floor. I felt his teeth closing on my knee cap.
"Watch the bite! The bite!" someone yelled unhelpfully.
I jerked back and rolled a few unnecessary rolls until I could stand again. That was it. All the wind I had. If anything else was going to go down, I prayed Chad's anger would be put off by a plea of "plum tuckered" from me.
But I was irrelevant to him now. Chad had flung himself against his locker, his cheek smashed flat against the small grate on its surface
"WEASEL!" he shrieked. He hit the locker with his fist, as if pounding at the door of a lover who shunned him.
He screamed Weasel's name over and over again. Great sobbing tears spluttered out. His shouts became whispers as his hands traced the lines of the metal locker.
"Weasel, oh Weasel."
Chad turned his back to the locker and sat there, head slumped in his hands. Occasionally, he snapped around, like he could hear Weasel calling him.
Cleavon, another summer student, poked his head in the doorway.
"Uh, I gots to use it." We were blocking the only pathway to the bathroom.
Cleavon is slim, wiry, with a spacey way of talking and what looked like the top half of Coolio's head fastened to his chin, masquerading as a beard.
The first day of summer school, I asked Cleavon if he ever used the city bus system by himself, and he did not answer right away. His eyes rolled from me and out onto some mysterious spot on the cosmos. A smile stretched across his face.
"One time," he said dreamily, "one time, I did."
On the second day, Cleavon forgot to take his Ritalin before coming to school, and I barely recognized the young man who came vibrating off the bus and into the classroom. His words jumbled all together, a constant erection lurked beneath his thin grey sweatpants. He kept copulating with still objects, like walls and the underside of tables.
"WEASEL!!" Chad was up and screaming again, sounding the bell for round two. This time he attacked another staff, tearing forearm skin and a shirt collar. In slow motion, I grabbed one of his muscular calves from behind and half-heartedly lifted it, not at all sure what the exact technique I was using was titled. It reminded me of when I tried wrestling for like a month, and when I threw a move on my opponent, the ref blew his whistle, looked at me with utter disgust, and asked what the hell I thought I was doing. I am wrestling this other person I guess.
Chad used my grip on his leg as a springboard to gain leverage over the staff person, and it was their turn to hit the floor. I went down too, more for appearances then anything. They were kind of rolling around and I was kind of rolling around near to them. Occasionally I would tell Chad to stop it in my teacher's voice, which sounds like a Marine drill sergeant being tickled in his belly button with a feather: loud and gruff, sure, but barely concealing a squeaky, squirming glee.
Between all the wrestling, screaming, and Weasel longing, everyone burned themselves out and slumped around the locker room in sweaty heaps. I could smell my wife's deodorant in my arm pits; it was the smell of lilacs and ph balance. I don't have my own deodorant, not anymore. I don't want to talk about it.
Here in the temperate quiet of the oral surgery office, I look fondly at Elsie's distended cheeks and propped open jaw, and think how nice it is to have the old guard still around. The students you have all year are a familiar comfort in these summer months, when the evil you know pales in front of the violent, sexually extroverted evil you don't.