There are very few situations in which being led blindly down a poorly-lit hall in a lead smock to be left alone in a small room with radiation permeating your face would be acceptable. Luckily, a dental x-ray is one of them. Upon sitting back down in the strangely angled chair, the dentist relayed the news.
“You have five wisdom teeth.”
I started grinning. I was obviously not thinking of the pain that these superfluous molars would inflict when they tore through my vulnerable gums. I was thinking of what a great story this would make.
“You’re a freak,” my mom said nonchalantly while passing a bowl of green beans across the table.
Freak.… Mutant.… X-Men. “Oh my god, maybe I’m going to get my letter to Professor Xavier’s school for mutants.”
“You don’t get a letter, they just come and take you,” my dad imparted.
“Right. Hogwarts has letters,” I said, thinking about my disappointing eleventh birthday. Again.
“Why do people even have wisdom teeth? Shouldn’t evolution have done something about it by now?”
My compulsive need to be right all the time bubbled to the surface. “Because out brains gradually became so big that they didn’t fit right in our skull anymore. And we keep fixing them so the trait never gets weeded out.”
“So you’re saying we should destroy all the mutants?”
One of the five made its grand entrance three months later. Like an unanticipated visit from a distant aunt, it was not content with the space given and uninvitedly encroached on the territory of others, creating a domino effect that knocked the entire top row of my mouth out of alignment.
Warm-up exercises for a show forced me to acknowledge the intruder. We were instructed to bite down on our tongue and stretch it out to loosen the muscles in the mouth.
It was then I realized I couldn’t bite my tongue. My incisors didn’t meet up anymore.
I looked around the room and panicked to see my peers performing this exceedingly simple task with ease. I took the logical course of action and pretended to do the exercise with everyone else.
I had forgotten that every super hero has a super vice.
I sat in the waiting room watching one of those homogenous house alteration shows on HGTV, pretending that I wasn’t about to pay to be knocked unconscious and have my teeth stolen. And, for some indiscernible reason, that Steve Martin song from “Little Shop of Horrors” was running through my head.
The nurse asked me a few questions, and I charmed her with my responses of “Yeah,” “Okay,” and “Uhhhhhhhhh, ten o’clock?” She strapped me into the chair and decorated me with flashing pulse monitors like an unusually sedate Christmas tree.
“Upper left supernumerary,” said the nurse.
SuperNumerary. I’ve heard more elegant names, but it fit well, I think.
My wisdom teeth were gone and, with them, my chance to be a troubled mutant antihero. I never figured out what kind of power would have correlated with them, anyway. Gum-chewing? Superior preliminary digestion? Besides, I couldn’t feel resentful about any situation that allowed me an excuse to eat popsicles, watch movies, and avoid talking to people.
I dizzily stared at the “The Aristocats” played on TV.
Ha-ha! Look at those silly dancing cats!
I wonder how many teeth they have.