Still We Let It Choke Us

"Which hurt more? The first or the last?"

You have a lot of time to think about it afterward, not that it's a question that anyone would ask you. It's the type of debate you have with yourself in front of a mirror at three in the morning, often under the influence of an overserved evening. The hangdog look of confusion in your eyes betrays the truth hiding behind your lips. Five of your front teeth are missing and you know that neither option is correct.

The first you barely felt due to the adrenaline. The last were not as bad because the shock had numbed your mouth. The ones that bastard yanked in the middle are what inflicted the most pain, though not for the reason expected. With enough time to think between threats made by the loan shark you'd crossed and the chemicals coursing through your bloodstream you managed to decipher the true source of the suffering:  a human being, by definition only, is capable of torturing another individual over money, for revenge. That is what struck you the hardest. That is what made you curse birth. Duct-taped to that basement chair you found a reason for heartache.

Your physical affliction was gruesome and acute, but the psychological damage done by those rusty pliers lasted longer than the ache in your gumline. There's no phantom limb syndrome for teeth. You learn to live without them, eating foods more appropriate, smiling with your eyes instead; but the fruit from Eve's tree cannot be spat out. You know what man is capable of now. Feel free to throw that accusation at the fairer sex as well.

If you had insurance--the type with dental coverage--then you wouldn't be reminded every time you take a bite. But hey, if you could pay, then you wouldn't need Albanians. He must've gotten his rocks off. He never called you back.

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