This year was supposed to be a year of change. I wanted to leave behind the old me, the jittery and always feeling guilty and self-conscious me. I wanted to take care of myself a bit better. I started off by taking weight loss very seriously. Take care of my health. And I wanted to do things that I never got around to doing that would make me feel better, be it emotionally or physically. One of them was doing a crown on my tooth.
See, many years ago, I distinctively disobeyed my parents and got into a bumper car even when they told me not to. I think God was trying to tell me something, since I chipped off a big chunk off my front tooth when I hit my teeth against the steering wheel. I got off the bumper car immediately, burst into loud heaving sobs. At that time, I had visions of going through life with a chipped tooth and being mocked relentlessly by my schoolmates forever. And I was never going to win Miss Malaysia at this rate.
Give me a break, kay? I was eleven. I had many ambitions.
Thankfully though, my parents loved me enough to forgive my transgressions and take me to the dentist the next day. Apparently, achipped tooth is not uncommon especially amongst stupid children and they had means of fixing it. They fixed it down with a filling and told me to think about doing a crown later on. Like in a year or two, when I’m older.
Of course, that was more than 15 years ago.
After overcoming much procrastination, I finally dragged myself to the dentist to talk to them about doing a crown. This was last week. The dentist did an x-ray on my tooth and then he said, ‘I think you need a root canal before we can proceed with your crown’
‘Do you know what a root canal is?’
‘Yeah, well, I hear about it all on tv.’
The dentist probably held back a little sigh and took out a picture book, not unlike one that you would read to a toddler, and proceeded to tell in a voice that he had probably used countless of times to soothe young children right before he yanked their teeth out, to explain what a root canal is.
‘See, what we’re going to do is, we’re going to drill a hole through your tooth. And then see all these red lines in your teeth, those are the roots that we’ll put out and we’ll clean out and empty out the organic matter. After that, we’ll seal down with cement.’
‘Sounds alright? How about we schedule the root canal for next week?’
‘…yeah. I suppose.’
I had to be practically lifted out of the dentist’s chair when I was done as my knees had turned to jelly over the prospect of doing a root canal.
Root canal? All I wanted was a prettier tooth. I didn’t sign up for a root canal. So for the next one week, I moaned to each and every person I met that I was up for a root canal. From the way I behaved, it sounded like I was giving up a kidney rather than doing something routine.
Come Tuesday, I walked into the dentist’s office feeling terribly alone. My dad told me to pray but somehow the thought that I had to pray as I entered the dentist made it even scarier. And then, I was even more terrified when the dentist inside the room was a new dentist. He introduced himself and told me that he was referred for my case. He seemed like a pleasant enough fellow.
‘I was told that you needed a root canal. But I’ve looked at you X-rays, and I don’t think you need one.’
I practically melted in the chair from jubilation.
The rest of the consultancy was routine. We picked the colour of the veneer – sorry, Hani, there was the option for gold and diamantes but the dentist talked me out of it. Something about it not being very classy. And then as he jotted it down, I told him that I was opting for an all porcelain veneer. He was surprised, he thought I was opting for the usual procelain attached to metal veneer but I was rather insistent. This was the new me, I had already started the process at the beginning of the year and I want to continue.
The dentist went on to explain the pros and cons about an all porcelain veneer. One of the biggest one is that I have to think about the possibility of a porcelain veneer shattering, if I bite into anything that is hard.
‘Anything hard?’ I ask. Wait, the new me has to give up certain kinds of food? That did not fit into my calculations at all. I run through a mental list of hard foods that I enjoy that I may have to give up. Is vanity worth more than food? ‘Do you consider steak hard?’ I ask.
‘Well, no, I mean, you just have to careful.’
‘So steak is hard?’
‘I wouldn’t call it hard, but like you know, you can always chew it on the left side as opposed to the right.’
‘Oh. So that means, steak is okay.’
‘Yes, it should be.’
Phew. Not eating steak forever does not fall under taking care of myself better. I nearly called the whole thing off but thankfully, drastic measures were not needed. The dentist explained to me again the procedure of doing a crown. I listened half-heartedly, the last dentist had already done so, complete with a model of how he’s going to shave the tooth down, etc etc.
‘I can eat steak right?’
‘Then, no questions.’
As I left the dentist took a look at my appointment form. ‘Alright then, Ad-lee-na,’ he said. ‘Oh, you tulis kat sini, you penulis.’ (It says here on the form that you’re a writer)
If you had been following this blog, you would know how much of a milestone this is. I almost never tell people I’m a writer, a remnant from my old corporate days. I used to be so embarrassed that I did not have a ‘normal’ day job, one working in the office – that sort of thing. I hated telling people I was a writer and then having to hear them say, ‘Why don’t you get yourself a real job?’
But I refuse to be embarrassed about it now. I’m a writer and I’m proud.
‘Ya,’ I say proudly.
‘Oh, wow! Apa yang you tulis?’ (Wow, what do you write?)’
Oh shit. Now, I’m just proud that I’m a writer – I haven’t gone that far into coming up with an answer on what I write about. What should I say? How do I explain business plans in Malay? Or screenplays? Copywriting? What is the word for screenplay in Malay? Would they judge me if I say I’m a business writer? Would they judge me if I talk about my screenplays? Oh, why don’t I speak better Malay? And why is my brain frozen?
And that was when I uttered the immortal and rather untruthful words, ‘Oh, saya seorang novelis,’ (I’m a novelist) because it was the only Malay word for writing that I can think of at that point. I mean it’s not that untrue. I have an incomplete manuscript at home that I hope one day will be published. I’m a hopeful future novelist.
‘Oh wow! Can you bring a copy of your work next week? A signed copy! That would be really cool.’