Nothing. I came up with nothing, because one of my premolars hurt so badly, the pain spread throughout my entire left side of the face and my eye. It throbbed, it stopped me from thinking, it sent me up the walls. Like when I was a kid and I felt that unclenching my tiny fist would somehow help mitigate the wailing winds of a late autumn afternoon and clenching it would make themthem the more powerful, today, when pain turned me into a manic with a twinging Le Penseur stance, I would resort to similar superstitions. The children playing outside made my face spasm more, so I merged a “fuck… you!” mental anathema with an Ak-47 and there I was, following them around the labyrinthine streets with my pants dropped to my knees, tumbling over their round playing objects and constantly squeezing on that machine gun’s trigger only to be remembered by the Freudian ego that they’re just kids, so white flags with yellow fuzzy smiling balls would pop out of the gun and everyone would be amused.
Except for me… there’s nothing more personal and more annoying than a toothache. When everybody’s peachy, you have an abscess, swelling your jaw and making your tongue feel not quite at home. When they all can fornicate and laugh and do whatever normal people do, you can only agonise and revel in the wonders of “I CAN’T FUCKING BREATHE, that’s how much it hurts me to exist right now!” They say men don’t give birth… I understand it’s not something that only men do, have toothaches, but I thought of this analogy after the doc’s radiography, sitting there with its back side at me, revealed a hidden tooth striving to break the gum surface of my mouth and call itself one of the many. Who the fuck is teething at the age of 41?! Who! Am I only a little boy on the inside?! The little bugger stood hidden inside me for 3 long brain racking months. I lost 30 pounds. My face started looking more severe, and the charisma that recommended me for a possible stand-up comedy career slowly went out the door. I looked miserable and then some! My thoughts about everything that made a sound under the crimson sky was Pandora’s Box waiting to be opened by the unwary.
Amidst these god-forsaken circumstances, 4 types of around the clock painkillers that only managed to do so much when it came to the force and intensity with which the pain came and never went away, I remembered about a short story written by this obscure Romanian college grad landed in my hands by means of an obscure website that I can’t seem to remember right now. All I know for sure is that the website had a season or something in the name and that the story was about an Australo-Pithecus. It went a little like this:
Deep in the Zwartkrans Valley, clustered with birds and wildlife, past the longevous Baobab trees and the Umbrella-Torn Acacias, beneath the dangerous, yet beautiful bells and whistles of the lion pack’s mane, a group of 200 proto-human Australo-Pithecus Africanus lived. Seeing them from afar, these affable upright beings whom sometimes didn’t dislike going back to walking on all four, they gathered and lived in harmony in caves and alternatively in camps scraped up under the naked sky, moved around only to avoid the pesky fleas and the recognition and pattern-observant predators.
Among them, though, one specimen seemed to be different, different in ways only the inexistent doctors might deepen and reveal. He was marginalised by his group because he only cried with one eye and seemed to have an irregular, swollen face. He would rant and point fingers at others for no reason whatsoever and he rarely slept. This individual had an even uniquer inner life, as insights over his anatomy divulge a tooth trying to spring from his gums, a bone so inadvertently placed by evolution underneath another tooth that it did the double travail of extracting a tooth without any foreseeable anaesthetic and placing another in its place.
The world, as beautiful as it was, merely feigned splendour when looked upon from within the anatomic fortress. Nine out of ten women died when giving birth, as relaxin didn’t yet exist to arbitrate the increased volume of blood pumping through a gestate woman’s heart nor could it soften the pubic cartilages so the baby would fit, be carried out and see daylight without causing internal damage to his mother. Relaxin was a late evolutionary trait of our bodies. Women’s hearts exploded back then from the pressure of having a 1.5 kg child with a cranial capacity of 300-400 cc breaching their inner doors during the most violent death epidemic known to them as of yet. Soon after their numbers grew and they woefully buried their dead, even those peculiar women that turned into the Siamese fossils of mothers dead with baby heads suffocated in their vulva, the group of pre-humans stared death through the eye of an even worse anatomical defect: teeth.
Most of them died in their 20s because dentists were a thing of the future and tooth cavities and infections, precocious periodontal disease and dental erosion were churning among their numbers like plague. Those who didn’t get to fall in love and give birth would never do so. Those who didn’t live a life of glory would never see conflict. Those who were mocked by the rest for what today we see as derisory justifications, like their screeching voice or their height, never got to see highlight and make a friend.
One of the first who suffered from this ailment now sleeps alone under the mighty Baobab. He awakes from a dream where the sound of booted feet would trail on the wooden floorboard of an attic, above him, like a phantom playing soccer with his fears and superstitions in the dead of the night. He awakes, and in the interstice between dream and reality he imagines someone high up in the canopy, using a stick to make those noises. No-one was there.
His tribe had abandoned him because of his inner torture. He felt someone used barbed wire as dental floss on his teeth but didn’t have the adequate linguistic signifier nor the Saussurian signified to express it. He was in the dark completely. Tears dropped from his left eye minute after minute for the past three months. His lips were swollen, because the pain beckoned him into this abyss of malnutrition and dehydration. He didn’t want to live anymore, that’s how sharp his pain was. Back before he was expulsed from his group he looked everywhere for signs of similar bodily disorder, but fate had only bestowed him this accursed affliction. His fellow family and friends looked at him scared and uneasy. They thought it was contagious, the one eyed cry that caused his face to quiver like in the presence of true horror.
Alone and shattered, as sleep almost never came, he kept walking. Nightmares haunted him at night, dreams of time travel enticed him during the day. He couldn’t hunt, he couldn’t harvest, scavenge, protect himself, he couldn’t think of a single happy thought, until the day his migraine-like head pains ushered a final sharp noise, like the not yet experienced flatline of an ECG machine, and him and his not yet living and kicking lifeline dropped dead.
He was never buried, never mourned, never missed, never discovered, until now, when the narrator of this story gazed upon the fossil talking of his early demise in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History from Washington, DC.