a painful extraction

I am sitting in a white plastic lawn chair inside the cafeteria of the Orange County Correctional Facility.  To my right is Larry, 43, an inmate from Roxboro, North Carolina who I have made a connection with over the past few months.  Larry is in the eighth year of his sentence.  He has an 11 year old son.  He is lucky.  His wife still visits him.  Most of the prisoners lose not just their freedom but also their families when they go behind bars.  Then again, I like Larry and I can understand why someone would want to stick with him.
But that is not really my story.

The room is loud.  It has eight foot ceilings.  There must be forty-five visitors and almost 100 prisoners in the room.  With everyone talking, the din reaches 80 decibels.  We are in the corner, next to a quiet piano, so its easier.  Still, things can be challenging.

I offer to Larry that I will be getting my wisdom teeth out the following morning. “Yes, all four of them,” I add.

He has his own story.

“You got your wisdom teeth out?” he says.  “Oooh.  I did that, too.  In here, you know, we don’t get anesthesia.  Just some pills and a shot.  We can take 800 mg of advil.”

“Yes,” I shout, “I have vicodin!”

The guards look over.  Hmm.

“They took me to the state dentist, in Butner.  It was fine, but then one of my teeth cracked.  So he took a screwdriver to get it out.  He sort of dug into the gum, twisted, and then popped it out.”

Did I mention, I am actually kind of afraid about this operation?

He goes on.  “I had deep roots.  So he took the chair and swiveled so that my head was down near his ankles.  Then, he pulled with two hands, as hard as he could.  Right out of my head.”

I cringe some more.

“Larry,” I say, “you are scaring me.  I am going in tomorrow, I hope. ”

“Oh, you are going in tomorrow?” he asks.  “I didn’t get that.  I thought you meant you had already had the surgery.  Sorry!”

He has a big smile.  I think he wants to reach out now.

“I will pray for you,” he says.  You will be fine.”

I did get my wisdom teeth out.  I remember asking the doctor if he had put in nitris, or if the nurse did that a few minutes earlier.  He smiled, said it was going in now, and then I remember being pushed into a waiting room.  My teeth were out.


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