Week 40

I was supposed to be picked up half an hour ago. Instead, I’m standing in the scorching heat, in an unfamiliar town in a country that before now I’d only seen on TV and in the movies.
He hasn’t forgotten me. Instead, he’ll be lost.
This is why we arranged a meeting spot before I left. But that meeting spot is at least a half hour drive from where I currently am, and I currently don’t know where I am.
Looking up and down the street again, I resign to the fact that he’s not coming. I’m on my own.
I decide to walk to the nearest police station in the hope that they’ll take pity on me and drive me to where I need to be. First mission: find a police station.
I walk north, not because I feel comfortable that this is the right direction, but because I can see there is a McDonalds on the way. I figure it’s as good a place as any to get directions. However, I soon discover that this McD’s is not like the ones at home.
“Excuse me, can you please tell me where the nearest police station is?”
“Lo siento…”
Not something I had anticipated. All Spanish speaking employees in an American McDonalds. I knew I should have paid more attention in Spanish class at school, but for now words escape me.
After a few attempts and less than successful hand gestures, I shrug and thank them, but decide to just continue in the direction I’d been travelling and hope for some luck. Surely I’m due for some good fortune?
And it appears to come. After walking less than five minutes I hear a car tooting as it pulls up beside me. Throwing my arms up in relief and with a big smile on my face I figure he’s finally found me! Finally, my ride is here!
Yet, when I approach the passenger side of the car, I notice the driver is a different shade to the man I’m waiting on, and a far greater height. This is a stranger.
I shake my head, and say I’m fine and not to worry, but he doesn’t buy it. So I reveal to him that I’m looking for the police station and he offers to drive me, saying it’s too far to walk.
I don’t argue, and while my instincts tell me I’m doing the right thing by getting in the car, there’s a flicker of “you idiot” that crosses my mind along with the picture of my corpse on the side of a deserted road.
The driver is friendly enough and apparently he saw me in McDonalds and decided to do a random act of kindness. I explain about my ride not showing up and how he gets lost easily, and my hopes of the police taking me to our meeting spot.
He laughs and tells me that the spot is on his way to work. He offers to drive me to where I need to be and explains that the police wouldn’t help me anyway as it’s out of their jurisdiction.
Alarm bells should probably be ringing by now, but he seems like a good guy, and I trust the part of myself that is both relaxed and relieved to have someone to talk to.
So we drive. We talk politics, hairdressing, and my home country. And after thirty minutes, I’m let out at my location with a handshake and a wave, before I’m left alone again.
And then there HE is, my ride who never came to get me, looking sheepish and apologetic, but also utterly perplexed at my being dropped off by a stranger.
And as we drive away and talk about my wait and the man who picked me up, we realise the risk and luck of life. We decide not to separate again, but to add a few random acts of kindness to our list of things to do while in America.

Week 6

A forest scene with a river running through it.
Double rainbow.
A beach view of some purple plants
Mountains. Lots of mountains.
I try to focus at the images of calendar scenes pasted together above me, while two faces pass in front, using blades, clamps, and what looks like a screwdriver.
The pain is almost unbearable, the two injections into my mouth not helping numb much.
As the clamp is used again it feels like my jaw will break in two.
It’s my dentist versus my tooth, and so far the tooth is winning.
The nurse turned the radio on shortly after work began. It was strangely comforting to hear ads that I recognised while drills that sound like saws screamed inside.
A news report comes on. That means we’re half an hour in.
Katy Perry, All 4 One, possibly some Pink and Bruno Mars… I think there was a Dirty Dancing song in there too. The radio stays light while I try not to move too much.
I notice I’m clasping my hands together. I try to release them but find only minutes later I’m now holding my arms.
Something stabs within my mouth and this time the numbing isn’t enough to stop the climbing pain. I flinch and make some kind of noise.
The dentist keeps telling me I’m doing “really well” and that we’re “almost done”, but he’s been saying it so long that it doesn’t mean anything any more.
He injects me once again. Third time.
I’ve lost count on how many times the drill has started up. I haven’t seen what it looks like, so I can only assume that’s what it is.
Suddenly I’m aware of tears streaking down the side of my face. I’m on my back, so they head directly for my ears and then wet my neck.
The skytower at night.
Kayaks on a beach.
A farming scene with a tractor next to a public road.
More mountains.
My view of another photo above is blocked by the yellow light shining into my mouth so the dentist can once again attack it with what feels like a chisel. He then grabs another tool and twists it at the tooth. The pressure on the tooth is sure to break a bone.
He stops.
Tells me to take a break.
They change gloves and ask for more tools. I need this to be over with, and although he reassures me that they’re almost there, it doesn’t feel that way.
After a while they’re back into it and again I hear another news report on the radio. I mark it as an hour and a half.
He tells me quarter of the tooth is out and they’re “really close” to getting the rest.
I think through all the worst moments of my life and decide that this one wins.
I live with pain every day but it’s pain I can manage. I have pills and exercises. I know that some pain disappears if I stop moving for a moment or go get something to eat.
This pain keeps on going and not only can I not see the end of it, but I also can’t tell if this is the worst of the day.
Another direct hit on my tooth leads a metal tool to jar against innocent teeth. Again I make a noise and the dentist apologises. I have no idea how many apologies there have been amongst the “you’re doing really well” and promises of the end.
The next time he attacks the tooth, he also attacks the gum, or the side of my mouth or –
It hurts. That’s all I know.
The injections may have numbed an area, but I can’t tell where the pain is coming from, only that it’s there. The dentist injects the area one more time. I count four.
By the time the tooth is finally ripped out my face is covered in blood and melted eyeliner. Red lines mark my face where the tears escaped.
It’s not over.
There are still stitches that need to be done.
By now the first of the injections wears off and I can feel every stab of the needle. Every pull of the thread.
Next time, I’m getting the gas.