Dear Diary,

Most people think money is the cause of all evil.

But, no–I am here to tell you that a root canal is the root of all evil.

Last Monday I walked in to the dentist’s office for a routine cleaning plus x-rays, and I walked out with a recommendation to see an endontic specialist.


After consulting with my dentist and seeing the mysterious grey cloud surrounding Tooth 29 for herself, the specialist insisted I come in immediately and made room for me on her calendar.

That both deeply impressed me and also made my blood run cold.

What could be so terribly wrong? I wondered.

So I fit the new appointment into my day and when the time came, Google Maps directed me to a nice, new facility housed over Sutter Medical in Roseville. I filled out the usual consent and compliance forms, agreeing to sacrifice my firstborn if the insurance didn’t cover the cost, etcetera. The specialist and her assistant were both staying late to ensure this procedure was completed today, and I was touched by their professional concern. 

Image result for horrible bosses jennifer aniston dentist
Just lie back, right here.

This is a root canal? I thought as I flipped through channels to find HGTV while tiny hands drilled inside my wide-open mouth. Huh, I’ve had a worse time going in for a filling.

The operation took about an hour, and I was comfortably numb throughout.

Afterwards I mumble-thanked all the people staying late to fix whatever was wrong with me, including the receptionist and the custodian waiting for us to clear the room. They were all very kind. 

I went home and innocently got the last good sleep of my life.

The next day my mouth ached, a little, but I attributed this to having that rubber door stop wedged in the back of my jaw for an hour. I went to work, did my thing, and came home feeling tired and sore. Still, I went to boxing class because these were the last few days of the six week fitness challenge and I wanted to finish strong.

Before bed I took two Motrin and figured I would feel all better in the morning. 

Image result for tossing and turning in bed bad sleep

Instead I spent the night tossing and turning, jolted to almost-consciousness every time my tender cheek touched the pillow.

Wednesday I was politely aloof.

Thursday I was cranky.

By Friday I was downright mean. My jaw throbbed like a pulsing, rotting heart, and I kept spitting like a teamster as my mouth tried to wash away whatever was killing me with saliva. I called the endontic office, and the receptionist sweetly replied that this was normal and would last about two weeks.

Two weeks?


Two weeks?

That night I drank four tumblers of whiskey with lemon and passed out by 10 p.m.


At last–


Except that I woke up at 1 a.m. weeping and choking on those tears in my sleep because the pain was that blindingly intense.

I texted Lover but didn’t call, in case he was actually asleep at night.

I took two more Motrin and went back to bed. I couldn’t rest, though. My mind was stuck on some closed circuit as it checked in with my body, over and over and over again:

Hurts? Hurts! Hurts? Hurts!

I tried watching Netflix but couldn’t focus. The whole world was an exploding star lodged in the lower left side of my mouth.

Hurts? Hurts! Hurts? Hurts!

I texted Lover again.

I tried to read a book, to draw, to color, to count a giant plastic bag of buttons.

Hurts? Hurts! Hurts? Hurts!

Nothing helped.

Outside the city was dark and serene. I began to think I was going to die here tonight, and the cats would chew my face off for breakfast.

Hurts? Hurts! Hurts? Hurts!

An hour and a half passed and I realized that Motrin was not going to get me through the night.

When was the last time I had been sick enough to warrant prescription drugs? I am usually very healthy; I run and I box, I eat mostly organic, and I have a pretty fierce immune system. I’ve never broken a bone or had major surgery…

But there was one thing, one time.

I began to rifle through a giant box full of weird miscellany that I keep under the master bath sink. It contains things like a pint of fake blood; blue nail polish I liked for a minute; ace bandages; travel-sized hair products…and, behold, a five-year old prescription bottle of Vicodin.

When I was thirty-five, I made a permanent decision regarding my ability to reproduce. After that procedure, my doctor had prescribed these for “pain management” but I hadn’t needed them. I usually have a fairly high tolerance for pain–until this. 

Anyway, I had saved them.

Image result for old expired vicodin

The expiration date read 7/2012.

Am I going to die if I take these?

Hurts? Hurts! Hurts? Hurts! my body screamed.

I was already well on my way to the afterlife.

Hurts? Hurts! Hurts? Hurts!

I looked for information online regarding how bad it might be to take old drugs.

Hurts? Hurts! Hurts? Hurts!

Everything I read simply said, Don’t take expired prescriptions! 

Which is really, really good advice.

Unless you have this dialogue running non-stop through your head:

Hurts? Hurts! Hurts? Hurts!

Only 10 minutes more passed before I decided that the unknown future risk was better than the unbearable present.

I swallowed one and put the bottle next to my open ID.

Hurts? Hurts! Hurts? Hurts!

In case I actually did die.

Hurts? Hurts! Hurts? Hurts!

I texted Lover. I wouldn’t want him to think I was suicidal.

Hurts? Hurts! Hurts? Hurts!


I sat on the floor cradling my jaw and trying to find a place in my mind where I could move beyond the all-encompassing pain.

Hurts? Hurts! Hurts? Hurts!

After twenty minutes, a tingling dizziness buzzed through my body down to my fingertips.

Hurts? Hurts…less. Hurts? Hmm…no…

Thank God, I’m going to die after all, I thought, and curled up on the grey carpet and slept at last.

Ten hours later Lover finally reached me via phone. My jaw still hurt but it was a manageable level six on a scale of 1-10 with ten being the highest.

Besides last night, when the pain had registered at about ten billion.

“Hey, how are you? Are you OK?”

“Oh yeah,” I croaked, not sure if I hadn’t been dismembered by a hillbilly redneck torture family in my sleep. Gone are the days of my youth when I could sleep on the floor and bounce back up like Gumby.

Image result for gumby flexible 

“Can I bring you something? Did you really take those old pills?” he asked.

“Miso soup would be lovely,” I said, avoiding answering his second question. I downplayed my near-death experience as we made plans for him to come over. No matter how nonchalant I pretended to be, the truth was that I could barely pick myself up and walk downstairs, much less drive or even get dressed.

Thankfully, Lover left off on lecturing me on the breadth and depth of my stupidity until some future date when I feel better. Instead, he brought me chai and six different varieties of soup from my favorite place in Midtown.

And, at last, I didn’t hurt anymore.

A long weekend of sunshine and blue sky spent suffering inside with a swollen jaw.

Root canals are definitely the root of all evil.



**Update** Yesterday I checked in with my dentist. It turns out that the tooth’s infection had spread into my jaw! I am now on antibiotics and brand-new, not-expired Vicodin. 

**Photo Credits**