When I was a kid, I always had to be different than everyone else. Among other things, I determined to ride a unicycle because, I figured, riding a bicycle was too ordinary. On a hot summer afternoon, that unicycle cost me a tooth, and my cool. And it cost me today, too.
I was about 12-years-old when I started working for my grandfather's building maintenance business, and I took pride in purchasing things for myself, instead of burdening my mom with all of my wants. That summer, I purchased a one-wheeled cycle.
The accident — one in a few cycle accidents I'd suffer as a teen – happened all too quickly. I mounted the unicycle using the aluminum training poles that came with it. I was a star unicyclist as long as I remained stationary. But when I began to pedal forward, I fell flat on my face. The fall came so fast and hard, my hands didn't have time to break my fall. My mouth broke it instead.
I lay there in our driveway, blood dripping from my mouth, but I didn't feel a thing, at least not immediately. I sat up, looked around, hoping no one had witnessed what happened. Then I darted inside to access the damage in a mirror. My front tooth, before it broke off, had cut a hole in my upper lip, piercing the skin on the other side. My bottom lip, spared from harm, had shoveled up a mouthful of dirt and rocks. I cupped my hands and spit my bloody tooth and rocks into them. The stub of my half-broken tooth felt sharp as I strummed my tongue back and forth over my teeth.
Thank God I fell forward because had I fallen backward, I'd have cracked my skull.
I've never been much of a crier, so I didn't lose a tear — though I wanted to. Not because of how bad my mouth hurt, but because of how bad I looked. By the time I'd gotten hold of my mom, my upper lip — or what was left of it — had swollen to the size of a golf ball. My face was bloody, but I didn't want to touch it. Something else, damaged from the fall, might break off, too.
I don't remember the details of my visit to the dental clinic that afternoon, but when I left the office, I wore a gold crown over my tooth. This all happened back in the day, before gold teeth — or grillz – were in style. My gold tooth wasn't cool.
Every five years, or so, the crown falls off. Eventually, I had the gold crown replaced with a white one. Later, I had the crown replaced with a veneer. I thought the veneer would be permanent. Not!
Today, during the last 10 minutes of a full-day school visit at Taylor Middle School, my veneer fell out. It happened while I was up, front and center, with 50 to 60 sixth-graders looking on. I was sketching a cartoon. As I sketched, I talked. Then suddenly, the tooth was gone. I started talking funny. Whistling when I pronounced an “S” word. Seemed more like a music demonstration than a drawing one.
Though the situation was embarrassing, I remained calm. My hands continued to sketch, but my tongue was on a mission to find that tooth, wrap it inside the wad of gum I was chewing, and tuck it away safely underneath my tongue. I couldn't just stop drawing and pluck a gum-wrapped tooth from under my tongue. Can you imagine what they'd tell their parents: "An old geezer of an artist visited our school, today, and his teeth started falling out."
My dentist can't get me in until Thursday. Don't think I haven't considered Elmer's Glue.