He was obeyed, yet he inspired neither love nor fear, nor even respect. He inspired uneasiness. That was it!
"We live, as we dream--alone. . . ."
I don't like work--no man does, but I like what is in the work, the chance to find yourself.
"'The horror! The horror!"
Selected quotes from "The Heart of Darkness," Joseph Conrad
Teeth of Lightness
The beauty of the framed Monet prints on the walls seemed to contradict the horrible drilling sounds coming from another room. It was mingled with guttaral sounds which could be the horrible death throws of a person spewing blood, or just someone trying to talk with their mouth half-numb from novocaine. They'd just mentioned something about a golf game, so it was most likely the latter. It wasn't her first appointment to this dental office, but Amy could help but feel uneasy. She was about to see her new dentist, the younger Dr. Livingstone. The dental technician hadn't seen the humor in that.
"You'll be seeing our new dentist," Claudia had said, with as little intonation as seemed possible.
"Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" she had asked.
"Yes. His son," Claudia had replied.
Maybe they got that joke a lot. It seemed like all other dental offices were hiring their technicians right out of school, but Livingstone Dental hired only family. Instead of the pretty young dental techs eager to scrub your plaque, Amy had been stuck with Claudia and her ilk. Claudia was at least a hundred and five and dried and crusty. She was a cousin or something to the oldest Livingstone who'd probably been a dentist during the Revolutionary War.
Her own teeth were nothing to speak of, so how Claudia could lecture her on the need for better flossing, she had no idea. Wasn't it like a requirement to have good oral hygiene if you were going to be lecturing others on their teeth? Then, she caught a glimpse of a piece of meat stuck in the woman's teeth. The horror. The horror was that she'd seen the technician eating a meat-free salad for dinner just as she'd arrived. How long had that been in there? It was disgusting. This was her guide to better oral wellness? Really?
Claudia had been grilling her the entire time too. She'd pried her entire life story out of her while sticking her fingers in her mouth. Apparently, no question was off limits when you had your fingers in someone's mouth.
"So, the younger Dr. Livingstone?" Amy said, spitting into the sink as advised. They were done. Thank goodness. This appointment had taken longer than ever... and all with Claudia scraping at her dating life while using an ice pick instrument on her gums. What had taken so long? Amy took good care of her teeth.
"Yes," Claudia said. "He'll want to talk with you about that upper marital tooth on your left side."
Had she said "marital" or molar? Her mother had been getting after her to get married and Amy was hearing things now. Claudia must have said molar. She didn't have marital teeth, did she? Claudia poked her teeth one last time.
Why did she keep coming here? She didn't care for the elder Dr. Livingstone. No one did... not even the dental technicians. He was obeyed, yet he inspired neither love nor fear, nor even respect. He inspired uneasiness. That was it! Uneasiness. Why did she keep coming here? She could have gone somewhere new. Why was she here... in this seat... for a new generation of Livingstone torture? There was comfort in expectation. It was the only plausible answer. The only one.
"I'll let him know you're ready for him," Claudia said.
"Thanks," Amy said, stretching her jaw. Great Claudia... go let junior know I'm ready. If the Elder Dr. Livingstone was in his eighties, this one was most likely in his fifties or sixties. Hopefully he smelled less like ben-gay. The bright light above her was most likely scarring her retinas. Still... it was psychdelically hypnotic. Staring at the light was soothing in a strange sort of way. She could do this for hours and hours. Funny little dots swam around in front of her eyes and something pulsed in a heavy, sultry sort of way around the edges. It was probably her eyes' blood vessels begging for her to look away, but she couldn't. Like a moth to the flame, she stared.
A deep, sensual voice said, "There's no need for that," and snapped off the light.
She blinked and tried to focus on the person leaning over her.
"Well, hello...," he said, laughing at her. "My name is Dr. Livingstone. Didn't Claudia give you some glasses to put on so you aren't blinded for the rest of the day?"
"No," Amy said, scowling. "I think dementia may have set in already with her."
Her new dentist was hot. He laughed and scooted back, putting a finger to his lips to shush her as he closed the door. He was tall like the other Dr. Livingstones, but their build made them look like morticians. This Dr. Livingstone looked like a professional athlete... maybe a volleyball player... a beach volleyball player. His brown hair had streaks in it, and his skin was a golden brown... with bright white spots the size and shape of the light she'd be staring at floating in front of her eyes.
Coming straight from work meant that she was dressed professionally and her short black hair was curled and being flattened under her head on the weird vinyl seat. Amy had never been more glad that she hadn't been able to make her early Saturday appointment where she would have arrived in sweats with bed head and goop in the corners of her green eyes.
"Okay. I'm going to take you for a little ride on the chair since Claudia is the only Livingstone who suffers from height failure."
"Height failure?" Amy asked, smiling. The chair began its slow ascent so he could look at her teeth. "You're my dentist's son?"
"Which Livingstone do you see?" he asked, frowning, and flipping to the front of my chart. "Oh. My grandfather...."
"Your father and grandfather are both here?"
Shrugging, he said, "I've always felt like my name should be Seymour." He winked and said, "Get it? Seymour Livingstone?"
"That was horrible," Amy said, laughing nonetheless. "You must really like dentistry in your family."
"It's a family thing. I don't like work--no man does, but I like what is in the work, the chance to find yourself."
"Finding yourself in teeth?" She tried to keep the amused skepticism from her face.
"Yeah... it's a rare man who can find himself in teeth." He set down her chart and eyed her. "Claudia spent quite a bit of time with you. I assumed I'd be doing some sort of consultation for dental work." He gestured at her chart, confused. "You have very nice teeth. Straight. Healthy. Okay... open up. We'll get to the bottom of this."
"Dementia," she repeated, opening her mouth obediently.
He laughed and nodded, saying, "Possibly. Perhaps she cleaned your teeth twice."
Well, this was strangely awkward. She was seriously attracted to her dentist, and he was looking in her mouth. Was he married? Could she ask that without it being weird and creepy? She didn't want to stalk her dentist. Besides... what seemed like chemistry could just be her dentist chair jitters, though she didn't feel nervous. He might not be interested in her at all. First things first, she should find out if he was married. Those gloves. He had stupid surgical gloves on. She'd never wanted her dentist to be less hygenic before now.
He was still looking perplexed when he sat back. "Dementia," he agreed, smiling.
She didn't want him to leave as he was showing signs of doing. Say something, Amy... anything.
"Claudia said you'd need to look at one of my molars," she said when he stood up.
"She did?" he asked, his eyebrows raised, as he re-opened the file. He sat back down, though. This was good. Where should she go from here? He looked so sweet when he held up her x-ray while biting his lower lip. Finally, shaking his head, he rolled back on his stool and opened the door. "Claudia?" he called.
Claudia called irritably, "What?"
"Which of her teeth was I supposed to be looking at?" he asked.
"Her left marital," Claudia said.
Claudia HAD said marital. Which tooth was that? "What does that mean?" Amy asked, scrunching up her nose.
She was glad her vision had returned to normal because she got to see her new dentist's cheeks flush, and he muttered, "It means we live as we dream... alone."
"What?" she repeated.
He shook his head and sheepishly said, "I'm single. Claudia says you're single. You're my last patient for the day. What are you doing for dinner once your teeth have stopped hurting from Claudia's prying?"
"I think I'm going out to dinner with my dentist, Dr. Livingstone, I presume," Amy said, grinning.
"It's Todd, and I'm going to go have a chat with my great Aunt. Your teeth look great, Amy." He handed her a toothbrush and a tube of crest with just a touch of embarrassment. "So, I'll meet you up front?"
Amy nodded. This was the best dentist's appointment she'd ever had.