The heavy glass door balked against my feeble push. I shoved harder, and it swung open into the frigid room. These places were always so cold. I shivered, but only partly from the arctic-like air.
I had been dreading this for a long time. The woman at the desk had tiny darting eyes and rough-looking reptilian skin. All she needed to be a perfect lizard was a tail. She flicked her tongue a few times and spoke. “Name?”
“Have a seat. We’ll be with you in a while.”
I took a seat near the door so I could make an escape if necessary. My hands trembled when I reached for the two year old magazine. I wasn’t really in the mood to take a marriage quiz, so I put the magazine down, my hands still shaking.
“Just chill.” I spoke aloud, before I realized I had.
Ms. Lizard looked up from her writing. “Excuse me?”
I smiled sheepishly. “Sorry, nothing.”
She returned to her work.
“The Girl from Ipanema,” played softly through the sound system. I doubted Miss Ipanema ever had to face such a trial. She was lovely and close to perfect. If I could be as confident as she surely was, I would have no trouble staying calm for this ordeal.
A brownish ring stained the carpet under my chair. I hoped it wasn’t blood. I knew it was silly to think such things, but yet, I couldn’t help wondering. The last time I had had this done, it was unforgettable, and not in a good way. The bright lights, the stretching, the prodding, and the cold metal objects rendering me unable to speak had been torturous.
The door opened again and a heavy set man entered. The white stubble on his chin indicated he needed a shave, but the crease in his jeans looked sharp enough to cut paper. He nodded in my direction, and then spoke briefly to Ms. Lizard. She suggested that he sit down while he waited.
He selected the chair beside me. “Hot enough for ya?”
I didn’t really feel like visiting. My energy needed to be spent on relaxing, not chatting. I didn’t want to appear rude, though, so I gave him a half smile and a brief “Yes.” He must have sensed my reluctance to talk, because he reached for his cell phone and started punching numbers.
A perky girl poked her head out from somewhere in the back. “Joni?”
It took everything I had to pick my leaden feet up and drag myself over to her. She made a one-handed sweeping motion. “Right this way.”
I followed her numbly, trying to remember just why I had agreed to do this. Her bright smile didn’t really help matters when she invited me to sit in the cavernous black chair. Hesitantly, I sat down, the leather seat still warm from the last sufferer.
The perky girl turned her back to me and fiddled with something on the counter. “How are you today?”
“Fine.” My voice was a ridiculous, high pitched squeak.
She tilted the chair back, leaving me staring up at a large round light and perforated ceiling tiles. The tiles zoomed in and out of focus. This was it. I squeezed my eyes shut, then opened them again, only to find the ceiling tiles undulating. Beads of sweat popped out on my forehead.
Miss Perky touched my shoulder. “Are you okay?”
I nodded, not believing it for a minute.
“Do you know what we’re going to do today?”
I had a vague idea, but I wasn‘t sure I could relay my thoughts right at that moment. I opened and closed my mouth, guppy-like, but no words came out.
Miss Perky clipped a green paper bib around my neck. “It’s okay to be nervous. Root canals are really not much fun. Would you like Doctor Smith to give you some happy gas?”
She kept smiling pleasantly, but I wasn’t looking at her face. A gold cross hung around her neck. The bright overhead light caught the gleaming metal of the simple cross and sent sparks dancing from its center. I was mesmerized by it.
“Joni?” Miss Perky was looking at me quizzically. “Do you want some happy gas?”
I couldn’t take my eyes off the little cross and the truth it symbolized. “No thanks.” This time my voice sounded normal. “I don’t think I’ll need it. I feel perfectly calm.”
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