of dic·tion·ar·ies & den·tists

© 2012 S. D. Stewart

This row of dictionaries looms over me as I work, though I don’t have occasion to consult them as much these days. I used to do a lot more translation work as I cataloged. But my job has changed over the years, perhaps for the worse…it’s hard to say. I leave the dictionaries there to comfort me. I do still use the English one a lot (favored escapist technique). Sometimes the French and Spanish, rarely the Portuguese, and never the Swahili.

From the edge of the deep green sea, we open our arms, raise them high and trust, even when apart. Cut to end. Many nights, many years ago, I fell asleep to that. I like to think it informed my dreams. These days it’s everything.

It is Monday and I have a dentist appointment. Every time this happens I am unsettled by the bracketing of my life into six-month periods between dental appointments. I look back and wonder at the flatness of it all. Is this the right way to be going about it. Is it. Isn’t there some wormhole I could squeeze into instead. Some squirrely nautilus-shaped thing?

People are always leaving. And I miss them in a slow aching way. It’s been some time since I was the one leaving. A long time, actually, when you consider how often I used to leave before. It is doing something to the typewriter ribbon of time, I think. The dental appointments, the ink fading with each tap of the keys. The things we do at the changing of each season. Subtle adjustments absorbed, tarnishing the new, loss of notice to the details.

I like my dental hygienist. She is Eastern European—Polish, I think. I went to Poland once and in the short time I was there I found it to be a sad and beautiful country. That may have been due to my choice of activities while I was there. I like my hygienist because she’s quiet. I come in, we exchange cursory greetings, and then we get right down to work. Or rather she does; I just lie there and stare at the painting on the ceiling of a rowboat floating in the clear blue shallows. There is no banter. I hear the other hygienist and patient nearby chatting up a storm and I wonder how they can carry on such steady conversation while one of them has both hands in the other’s mouth. I wonder about my hygienist sometimes. Does she have a family, what does she do in her free time, that sort of thing. I often find myself wondering in this fashion about people with whom I have a narrow single-faceted relationship like this. But I would never dare ask her these things. And besides, most people’s lives are less exciting in real life than in imagined life. I hope they don’t take my hygienist away. At my last dentist they were always switching hygienists on me and it irritated me to no end. Then one time I totally spaced on my appointment because I always count on those reminder calls and they didn’t call this time. I realized about two weeks later or so that I’d missed it and that they’d never followed up. So I figured if they didn’t care that much about me as a patient that I’d find a new dentist. So far I’m pleased.

If I left, I’d have to get a new dentist and therefore, a new hygienist (I care less about the actual dentist because one rarely sees much of one’s dentist unless one’s teeth are terrible). If I left, someone else would claim my stack of dictionaries. If I left, these particular mosquitoes and their vile descendants would find someone else to bite. If I left, I’d be somewhere else, like I often think and dream about, but it wouldn’t be somewhere else for long. It would be like here, except there, because that is always what happens.

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2 Comments

  1. Lately I have been remembering, for no reason that I can think of, a childhood friend who I lost touch with when I moved. It wasn’t so much the moving that did it as my inability to appreciate her kindness for what it was.

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  2. I love dictionaries, and have a huge collection: Sanskrit, Latin Greek, Sinhalese, Chinese, Italian Spanish, Basque, French, German, Malayalam, Japanese etc etc and of course several English ones, including my favourite, a treasured Websters International from 1904 – and the OED. If I had to choose one book with which to be stranded on a desert Island I would choose the OED: both volumes that is. The magnifying glass would come in handy too.

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