Sandra Tsing Loh loses a tooth... in her dream.
It's that moment that comes only in dreams. You know the dream I mean. You bite into something and your tooth falls out.
I'm standing in my kitchen in mid-afternoon, looking out the window and dreamily snacking on Zankou white meat - white meat! - chicken, which seems to contain a small round pebble. I pull it out - Sometimes with Zankou, they're in such a hurry with their gloves and Z-bags, the empire is expanding so quickly, a piece of turnip will accidentally end up in your falafel balls - Happens all the time - Perhaps it's a popcorn kernel or a piece of bone - I get out my reading glasses -
Which, in the first few seconds, does not help me because anything you hope a tooth would look like? Blindingly white, gleaming, with a cheerful cartoon face on it comically wielding a toothbrush telling kids to "Floss, floss, floss?"
Uh, no. This thing - in contour, in color, in sedimentary detail - is from a more prehistoric time. There has been many a night out for this actor. Regrets, it has a few. It is a cosmic transmission from the dental hygienist of Keith Richards.
Fact is, I had already been playing phone tag with my wonderful dentist - whom I have not visited in perhaps three years - because I knew something was just a little bit shaky with my back left upper molar. Or, as I've now learned to call it, "Number 15." Not traumatic, painful, or unmanageable - just a bit... eccentrically shaped. And, it occasionally made a small clicking sound. Here's what I think happened to it: a metal filling from the Jimmy Carter era decided, after several decades, it was time to take a sabbatical out to the sea via a few gentle expectorations after brushing. Because half the time my reading glasses are in another room, my relationship with my 51-year-old body has become unfocused and forgiving. "Of course," I'll say as parts fall off, particularly if there is no pain, "we all need a break! And, thank you for your loyal years of service!"
My wonderful dentist, Edward Lew, is exquisitely kind, gentle, and attentive - He has a well-deserved cult - But, he is also a father figure, which means he will be sorely disappointed. Because he loves me, he will have to lecture me, and why not? Instead of being a good person with regular teeth continually promising to floss more, I have become a bad person who breaks all her promises to good people. And, who now has a big smoking crater as punishment. I couldn't face Edward's disappointment. It was time to find a new dentist.
Next week: A Facebook deluge of gum disease, laughter, and secret phone numbers in Marina Del Rey.