“I’m very happy. You’ve been flossing, but what else is new? You were always a good flosser.”
I’d dreaded the wrath of my dentist as I’d missed the last 6 month check-up, something I never do. I can just make out The Age of Aquarius piped in over the din of dental drills and I instantly feel calmer.
“You could have probably gone another 6 months – they look that good – but don’t get any ideas.”
Never the comical stereotype who asks you questions when there’s too much in your mouth to give an audible answer, she always makes sure to take everything out when she does. And since my dentist loves to talk, she does it often. Which is why it takes her two hours to clean my teeth.
How was your Easter?”
“Good. Uneventful. Just a hike and a bottle of wine. You?”
“I think I got shamed,” she says, removing the hook and a couple of slobber-suckers. “By my twelve-year-old.”
“Do tell what Farhad’s done this time. Right after you tell me how good my teeth look again.”
“They look really good. So – the neighbor came over on Easter Eve. Seems Chik-Fil-A had made a mistake and given them, like, fifteen extra sandwiches. So they brought them over. Although it was against my better judgment, I hated the thought of wasted food and decided what the heck. They were okay, not as good as I’d heard.”
“So get to it – what did Farhad do?” I was so anxious to hear what our little activist had said, she didn’t have time to remove anything.
“He came into the dining nook and looked at us in horror. I told him they’d made a mistake and the neighbors brought it and it was wasted food and he said, ‘You all should be ashamed of yourselves. Do you know if Chik-fil-A had their way, Uncle Ali wouldn’t even be married? I won’t eat a bite even if you make me. I hope you don’t choke on your fast-food hatred.’”
“Wow,” I said, as she moved to pull out the scraper. I motioned her to leave it be and keep going.
“It was just the poor Iranian girl in me, I guess. Don’t throw anything out. But I felt terrible. So then he comes back into the room and says, “And another thing: if Jesus were around today, he’d be called a woke leftist socialist for sticking up for the little people and telling everyone to love one another and one thing I’m sure he wouldn’t be doing is seeing how many Chik-fil-A’s he could jam in his mouth because Jesus would be better than that.’ Then he walked out. ‘Jesus would be better than that.’ Can you believe?”
“You did good, girl,” I said. “You should be very proud. Both of your son – and my pearly whites.”
“Go,” she says. “Jenny will check you out up front. And six months. Or I’ll have Farhad come over and shame you for something.”
I made my way to the entrance desk, all the while thinking of my twelve-year-old self and how I was probably most worried about whether or not I could harangue my mother into extending the width of my bell bottoms to look more like Elton’s on the new album cover and not a thing more.
“You don’t owe anything, Phillip – your insurance has it,” Jenny chirps over the entrance desk.
“What’s going on with this crown?” I hear my dentist ask a patient in another room, clueless to the fact that she’s given me hope that there could very well be a stellar generation coming up after this one. “Well, Mrs. Leifer,” she continues, firing up a drill, “at least we’re not running from Russian missiles.”
As I duck into the early afternoon light, the Indian laurel trees on Wilshire Boulevard appear even greener than they probably are. With the war coverage as of late, I too find myself grateful for the smallest things – like the fact that I can take a walk to my dentist in the ocean breeze and catch up like the old friends we are. A Big Blue Bus stops just ahead, dumping its masked passengers onto the curb. I imagine the Easter Jesus shoving fifteen Chik-fil-A’s in his mouth one at a time. I suppose if we’re truly thinking Love One Another, he’d have to accept the Chik-fil-A makers for who they are as well – love the sinner, not the sin and all that.
“Leeeeet the sunshine in,” I can hear myself singing softly while I wait for the walking green. Not a Russian missile in sight.
The third homeless person to ask me for money in half a day’s time holds out an empty box, talking like he should be on ten different meds he doesn’t have. I do my best to take a deep breath of patience.
“Love one another,” my mind’s eye Jesus says through a mouthful of hateful chicken sandwiches. I reach for a handful of back pocket change.