Purple-gloved fingers in my mouth. Surgical steel picks of all shapes and sizes. Her deft fingers manipulate the picks, scraping and digging away at stubborn chunks of tartar below the gum line. She rinses the rubble with a stream of water and then inserts a suction tube which pulls the spit right out of my mouth. She is a detailer of teeth. Buffing and polishing enamel, shining my denticulate bling. She picks and digs, testing the integrity of each suspect spot for hidden rot. My jaw aches. She lets me rest. My gums hurt from the assault. Spraying and spitting, picking and buffing, poking and prodding, she undoes sixth months of neglect. No I don’t floss every day. No I don’t brush after every meal. Just as Santa knows who’s naughty and nice, she knows who smokes, who is addicted to coffee or tea, who chews gum, who chews tobacco, who eats too much candy. My teeth offer a glimpse into my lifestyle and she is the oracle who interprets it. I see her for half an hour every six months but I don’t know her name. Sometimes she asks me questions that I can’t answer with her fingers in my mouth. Sometimes I attempt to reply, but mostly I don’t. She is the cleaner of my teeth. Inspector of my mouth. Chronicler of my oral history. I think her name is Linda?
The Blue Line train was chugging along nicely on an ordinary Wednesday morning rush hour commute, but then it started thinking about things. Asking itself questions like: “What if Metro heaven doesn’t exist? What if this is this all there is? Am I doomed to a lifetime of schlepping these poor slobs back and forth to work every day before being shunted into some railway boneyard and cut up for scrap? I always wanted to see Paris. I could have carried beautiful people who spilled their wine and ground flaky croissant morsels into my carpets under the heals of their glamorous shoes as I glided along elegantly beneath the Champs Elysees whistling La Marseillaise. But alas, here I am in suburban Virginia carrying fat defense contractors in cheap suits to the Pentagon. Oh woe is me.” Then it broke down in a heaving fit of sobs and decided to just sit quietly in a dark tunnel and feel sorry for itself for a while. Eventually it composed itself and, resigned to its fate, decided to get back to work. Stand clear, doors closing.