Awoke with a raging tooth this morning, with something beautiful playing on the radio, full of melancholy, Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme from Thomas Tallis. Three cats and one dog barely noticed (although the dog, Annie, was lazily watching) as I sat on the edge of the bed and chewed on two aspirin, from a bottle kept on the windowsill in anticipation of need. Like a bottle kept near a baby's crib, ready to go if it starts crying. My tongue gathered up the aspirin pulp and pushed it into cavity of that insistent tooth. Williams was gone now, and a woman was talking on the radio as the pain seemed to subside. All relief in my head, most likely.
Maybe the music was in my head, as well, and that woman's voice. In these waking moments, it's hard to know what is real and what isn't. Except for that toothache, of course. No illusions there. The pain of a toothache is hard to ignore.
I'm thinking of an old friend of my father, a semi-professional wrestler named Billy Graham. Many years ago they worked together, doing handyman work for people around Boston. Graham is one of those cemetery people now, gently placed under soil, a peaceful expression, a bit of make-up.
My father told me a story about Billy that is relevant today. Years ago, while working together, Graham complained of a terrible toothache. But not for long. He was a man who knew how to gauge exquisite pain in such a way as to make it small and manageable. His solution to his aching problem was eloquent. In a matter-of-fact way, with shocking speed and determination, he produced pliers, gripped the offensive tooth, and ripped it out.
I'm not made of stuff tough enough to endure such a dramatic solution. Must make an appointment for a professional tooth-yanker.