MAY 16 (SATURDAY), 25 WEEKS + 5 DAYS
Sometimes I think about my sister's relationship with her husband-particularly about his role in the pregnancy, if he ever had one.
When she's having one of her crises, he looks at her timidly and stammers meaningless little phrases meant to comfort her, but in the end all he can do is put his arm around her. Then he gets this sweet expression, as though he's sure that's all she really wanted anyway.
I knew that he was a bit dull the first time I met him. It was at the dentist's office. My sister had never brought him home while they were dating, or even after they got engaged; but when I got a cavity, she suggested I go to his office.
A talkative, middle-aged woman worked on my teeth, and when she found out I was related to the fianc'ee of one of their employees, she asked me all about my sister. At the end of every question, I had to close my mouth, which was full of saliva, and come up with an answer. It was exhausting.
When it came time to make a mold of my teeth for a crown, he appeared through a door at the back of the examination room. Since his job was to make bridgework, he wore a white coat that was shorter than the ones worn by the dentists. He was a bit thinner back then, his hair a little longer. As he came up to me and muttered some standard greeting, I realized how nervous he was. His voice was muffled under his mask. Trapped as I was in the dentist's chair, I had no idea how to return the greeting, so I just turned my head toward him and nodded.
"If you'll allow me then," he said, with exaggerated politeness, bending down over me. The tooth in question was at the very back, so I had to open my mouth as wide as possible. He brought his face close to mine and stuck his hand in my mouth to feel around the root of the tooth. His fingers were damp and smelled of disinfectant. I could hear him breathing through the mask.
The dentist moved over to work on the patient in the next chair. Her cheerful voice rang out over the motor of the drill.
"Your teeth are a beautiful color," he murmured to me. I had no idea teeth came in different colors, but with his hand in my mouth, I couldn't ask what he meant. "And so straight," he added. "Your gums are healthy, too-firm and pink." I wasn't sure why he felt the need to give a running commentary on the state of my mouth; I certainly didn't need to have someone describe my teeth and gums in such detail.
My face was warm from the large light above my head. Needlelike drills and larger ones with diamond-shaped bits were lined up on the table next to me. A stream of water spilled into the silver gargling basin attached to the chair.
After the examination, he sat down on a stool and took a small glass plate from a cart. He sprinkled a mound of bright pink powder on the plate and poured a few drops of liquid on the powder. Then he mixed it vigorously with a tiny spatula. The string that held his mask swung back and forth behind his head, and his eyes darted restlessly between my mouth, my chart, and the glass plate.
As I watched the pink powder thicken, I wondered to myself whether this poor man, wrapped in his mask and his white jacket, was really going to marry my sister. "Marry" didn't seem to be quite right, so I tried other ways of putting it-"live with" or "love" or "sleep with my sister"-but none of these seemed right, either. He continued to grind away at the plate, apparently oblivious to the terrible noise that the spatula made against the glass.
At last the powder congealed into a malleable pink mass. He pinched it between his fingers and, using his other hand to hold open my mouth, smeared it over my molar. It was cold and tasteless against my tongue. As the tip of his finger ran over the inside of my mouth, I fought the urge to bite down with all my might.