Friday, November 12, 2010

Check it over before you take a bite...

Sometimes, I like to close my eyes and call forth a memory and try to remember as much detail about it as I can. Initially I started doing this as a part of a game of "What if?" that I'd play. For example: what if my brother had gone to college instead of into the Navy? or what if I hadn't gotten strep throat in 7th grade and hadn't missed all those pre-algebra classes? How would it have changed my life?

In order for the game to work correctly, however, I'd have to pull forth as detailed of memories as I could of certain incidents before I could begin imagining how things would have turned out differently. I found that the more I would play my "What if?" games, the more I spent time just trying to stretch my memory and recreate exact scenes.

Sounds like it should be easy, doesn't it? But I've found that because I love pictures so much, that often times all I can remember of an event, place, or person, is the pictures I have of them, instead of the actual memory. And then, I had the thought earlier today that perhaps I could, from time to time, try and write out one of these memories that I'm trying to recreate.

So, here's one memory:

I'm in the lunchroom/all purpose room of my elementary school. From my perspective, it's a huge room, with a half-a-dozen lunch tables set up in it--one for each grade that takes lunch there, plus one for the teachers. I'm seated at the table closest to the teachers, because I'm in the first grade. Early spring sunshine comes through the windows in the east wall behind me, but it's cool and almost watery. The lunch table is covered with a brown, fake-wood laminate. The bench seats are connected to the table and can be folded up on top of it, and the table in turn can then also be folded in half for storage.  I'm small enough that the toes of my sneakers just barely brush cold linoleum below.

This is me at 6, before the tooth fell out.
I can't recall who's sitting next to me--I could make good guesses based off of who was in my class, but I can't actually visualize them. In front of me is a pea-green plastic tray, with flecks of grey and white. The tray is divided into six sections--a long thin one on the left side for silverware (fork and spoon--no knives for grade schoolers!), a larger rectangle for the main entrée and a medium circle for our potatoes are at the bottom of the tray, and across the top are three squares--one for our fruit, one for our veggie, and one for our carton of milk. I have chocolate 2% milk (it's before the school went to skim milk), a greasy, pale brown potato cake, lukewarm canned pineapple chunks, an ice cream scoop of sour coleslaw (yech!), and a large hot dog on a bun.

My left incisor has been loose for a week or so, and my parents keep saying it'll come out soon. This is a scary thought for me, because I know when my dad goes to the dentist to have work done on his teeth, he always complains about how it hurts. The prospect of having a tooth pulled out (because I didn't understand the difference between baby teeth falling out and adult teeth being pulled out) terrifies me.

The hot dog is a shriveled, reddish-brown thing, drowned in a sea of ketchup and cradled in a hot dog bun that was fresh maybe at the beginning of the semester. Maybe. I listen to all of my classmates chattering around me as I reach down to take a bite of the hot dog.

After taking the bite, I immediately realize that something is very strange. There's a weird popping sensation, and mouth feels strangely warm--and not due to the hot dog. As soon as I finish swallowing, I realize that my tooth is missing!

My tongue instantly goes to the place where the tooth should be, and I feel this weird dangling flap of skin. I start panicking because I don't know where the tooth is and I've figured out that that's not ketchup but blood in my mouth and I've never lost a tooth before and all of the other kids are staring at me wondering what's going on and oh sweet baby Jesus why doesn't someone help me?!

As soon as my classmates realize what's happening, they get down on the floor, looking under the table and across the linoleum trying to locate my tooth. The teachers are flustered because probably a quarter of the students in my area are out of their seats, but after a few minutes they manage to get the kids to sit back down, despite the fact that nobody came across my tooth. I leave to rinse my mouth out with warm water, and before long I return to finish my lunch, quietly bemoaning the fact that I have no tooth to leave for the tooth fairy.

Sitting down, I pick up my half-eaten, soggy, limp, shriveled-up hot dog, and as I go to take another bite, I realize that buried in the pink, inner meat of the hot dog, is my little white tooth staring up at me.

To this day, whenever I eat a hot dog, I still find myself checking to see if I've left one of my teeth behind.

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