So, once the retainer was removed from my mouth it turned out that I also needed braces. For my four front teeth. I would probably have been perfectly happy to have my teeth turn out crooked or to have my jaw wired shut or eat an entire living chicken or whatever thing I had to do to not get braces.
I was awkward enough without all that. I was freakishly tall and thin. My mother cut my hair and always wanted to give me bangs, when she then cut WAY too short. I wore glasses. I had to wear special shoes because I had high arches and I would get awful leg pains otherwise. Also, my mom dressed me in a combination of clothes she made herself and thrift store clothes (before that was cool). Yes, I was painfully dorky.
But I still had to get braces. And I hated them. They were my mortal enemy. Unfortunately, when your mortal enemy is inside your own mouth, there is no way to get away from it. Even when you are sleeping it is there, fucking up your ability to feel happiness.
My parents forbade me from having any gum or hard candy. At all. Not that I had liked either of those things. But suddenly I was obsessed with them. They were my new favorite thing in the world and my parents were ruining my life by denying me of them.
The braces were also sharp and destroyed the inside of my lips. I couldn’t stop fucking with them either, which didn’t help. I ran my tongue over them over and over again. This only served to rub the wax off them that was protecting me from cutting the inside of my mouth.
The inside of my mouth was constantly raw and ravaged as was the tip of my tongue. It was like a thousand paper cuts on top of each other.
I had fairly strict parents and they had managed to keep gum and hard candy away from me for several months. Until Halloween came.
Halloween was on a Saturday that year. While I was out trick or treating with my family I gleefully thought about all the forbidden candy I was collecting. I fantasized about gorging myself on flavored, dyed sugar.
But then I realized the fatal flaw in my plan.
My parents always checked each piece of candy for razor blades or puncture marks before we were allowed to eat a single piece. Surely, they would confiscate everything I wanted at that point.
I couldn’t let that happen. Even though I knew it meant that I might die of a poisoned piece of candy or ingest a razor blade, I was going to sneak a few pieces. I should add that this was after the glass swallowing incident so it’s possible I thought any sharp object I swallowed would pass harmlessly through me.
I placed a few prized pieces of candy in the pockets of my Halloween costume, congratulating myself for my genius plan.
The next day, a Sunday, I snuck into the bathroom to enjoy some candy in private. I had learned my lesson from the glass incident. My mother was not going to walk in and ruin this too.
I pulled out a blow pop. Gum and hard candy in one! Double score. Take that mom and dad!
After a few minutes of sucking I began to get bored. I hadn’t adequately planned for how long it would take to eat this hard candy. I didn’t have a book to read or anything. I sat on the toilet, growing increasingly impatient, until I decided to just chew through the hard shell to the gum goodness inside.
I bit down hard trying to crack it open. The blow pop cracked and I felt a sharp pain in my gums.
I looked in the mirror, mildly worried. I had broken through the wire of my braces. It was now poking deeply into my gums. My teeth were covered in blood.
I realized this was probably exactly why this stuff was forbidden. I panicked. If my parents found out, I’d never be allowed to have candy again. I knew I had to find a way to fix this without letting anyone know.
I tried to pull the wire out with my hands but it was too thin, too deeply imbedded, and too slippery with the combination of saliva and blood. I reasoned that if I could just get a pair of pliers out of my dad’s tool kit, I could pull the wire out of my gums, reposition it, and nobody would know the difference.
I snuck past my family and went out to the garage where my dad’s tools were. I picked up a pair of pliers. These weren’t some kind of tiny jeweler’s pliers. These were huge, rusty, construction worker pliers.
I slipped them into the waistband of my pants and pulled my shirt over them. I made my way back to the bathroom.
I opened my mouth as wide as I could, my face close to the mirror. I pulled the pliers out and positioned them in my mouth. I was in a lot of pain from the stabbing that had now been going on for probably about 15 minutes.
I gingerly clamped them on the wire and slowly pulled it out from being embedded in my gums.
That was when my mother burst into the room.
I feel like we stared at each other for a long, long time. In reality, it was probably only a few seconds. But it was enough time for my short life to flash before my eyes.
Her face transformed into a mask of pure rage. She began shrieking. “What in God’s name are you doing?! You’re removing your braces with pliers?!”
I hadn’t considered how bad this would look to an outside observer. I hadn’t planned on someone barging into the bathroom in the middle of all this. I thought she was just going to be mad at me for eating candy. But now, I thought she might murder me before I had the chance to explain myself.
It turns out she didn’t murder me. But we had to make an emergency Sunday visit to the dentist’s office to get my braces fixed. I was grounded for a long time after that. I hate hard candy now. And I actually never did get the chance to explain what had really happened. Until now.