The stale doughnut

I wrote this a couple of days ago but sneakily scheduled it to publish now, thinking I won’t be getting on the internet much in the next wee while so might as well keep the posts spaced. I haven’t had the root canal finished yet, so at the moment I have the dental equivalent of chewing gum patching the hole. Hopefully I’ll get it finished tomorrow. Oh and Darjeeling is beautiful and I’m feeling better about things.

Arriving in Darjeeling I broke a tooth. It was the last straw in a long shitty day. It had already broken earlier this year and I had gone to the dentist like a good boy and had it fixed in 15 minutes on my lunch break while looking at my dentist’s latest holiday photos plastered on the wall opposite the chair. $180 later and it was done.

“There you go young man, all fixed up.”

“Thanks asshole, maybe if you’d actually checked my x-ray last time rather than just billing me for it and never calling back to give me the results this wouldn’t have happened.”

I didn’t say this of course; I’m far too much of a conflict averse pussy. I probably said something like “gee doc, thanks a lot you really saved my day.”

Then, barely three months later, the tooth cracked. Three days into a three week trek in the Karakoram mountains (if you haven’t heard of them that should probably give you an idea of how remote they are). I was eating a lolly and I felt shards of my molar split away from the tooth. I spat flakes of enamel out onto my Kindle in surprise. Well what could I do? My tent mate Chris – a doctor from Australia – took a look at it and he said it looked ok.

“It’s just the corner’s come off mate, there’s no pulp showing so you should be ok.”

And I was ok. I felt old and depressed for a day about my teeth dropping out like in so many of my nightmares but then got used to eating on one side of my mouth, enjoyed the mountains, and completely forgot about the weak tooth.

Until it broke. I felt like it couldn’t have come at a worse time. Our train had gone from being four hours late to six and our extra day in Darjeeling before our climbing course started had evaporated in a sauna-like sweat pit of languidity waiting the day away in the train, sweat sticking the benches to our singlets and our singlets to our backs. I had hardly slept. The train didn’t leave until after 11.30pm and then the chai-wallahs started their dawn chorus around 4.00am. From then on vendors moved up and down the train selling all manner of different snacks and everything from combs to plastic toy guns, torches to chappals; each vendor with his own distinctive piercing cry. By 8.00am it was too hot to pretend to sleep anyway.

From the station we took a share jeep to Darjeeling. We started off in relative comfort, enjoying the drop in temperature as we moved from the plains into the hills, but seats designed for two soon had four crammed in and the road deteriorated into a collection of potholes which our driver swerved energetically through and around. The other road users were performing similar manouevres, utilising both sides of the roads and together created a symphony of horn blowing.

The jeep wouldn’t drop us at our guesthouse so we had to walk. Uphill with our packs it was hard work. After two weeks of gastroenteritis the climbing left me shaking and panting. I had to take a break and we stopped next to a bakery spying doughnuts. We bought two. They were only slightly stale but as I sank my teeth into mine I felt a chunk of something solid. Thinking it some foreign body embedded in the doughnut I fished it out to examine. It was a large chocolate-iced piece of my molar. The same one that the dentist had supposedly repaired earlier this year. This time instead of chipping an edge off, the whole face of the tooth had sheared away leaving a jagged stump and a gaping doughnut and blood filled hole.

I cursed the dentist. I cursed the doughnut. Most of all though I cursed myself for not having had the tooth checked out in Islamabad, Lahore or Delhi when I had had the chance. But by then my tongue had worn smooth the slightly sharper edge that had reminded me of the filling and it had passed out of my mind. Still, I was furious with an impotent inwardly directed rage. I looked for something to take it out on but there was only Sam, looking concerned. There was nothing to do but pocket the tooth fragment, finish the doughnut on the other side of my mouth and plod on uphill to the guesthouse.

The guesthouse was full.

***

More bullshit followed; finding a guesthouse that wasn’t full, spending an hour walking around the dark streets in a power cut looking for a dentist, and so on but it really isn’t worth recounting. I survived, it wasn’t the end of the world and everything felt a little better in the morning.

***

Next up, my root canal.

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