It’s hard to believe my baby sister Brie is twenty-three today.
“Sometimes, I pretend to be retarded while in public.”
my hands curled to fists
ready to fight
“My little sister is autistic and mentally handicapped.
It’s really offensive for you to do that.”
don’t yell at this ignorant bitch —
you just met her; she’s your friend’s best friend.
surely she has hidden redeeming qualities.
“But I don’t do it to make fun of retards!
I love them — they’re hilarious!”
equally disgusted & incredulous,
i glanced at our mutual friend.
“Just watch — she’s so funny!”
i rolled my eyes & exited the room.
even at fourteen, i had no patience
for antagonistic bullies disguised as “cool kids.”
“Sammi is pumpkin?”
Brie squinted curiously at my toothless grimace and reached for the thread holding my lip together.
“No, Brie — I’m not a jack-o-lantern.” I shook my head.
“Owwie. No touch.”
“Correct. Don’t touch the thread. It hurts.”
“Sorry, Sammi.” Brie hugged me carefully, giggling when the stitches thread tickled her cheek.
“It’s okay, Brie. It’s not your fault.”
“Sammi is no pumpkin.”
Raf popped into the kitchen. “Time to go to the dentist, sis.”
“Thanks for picking me up, bro.”
“Of course. There was no way you could drive on pain meds.”
Four years ago, Halloween was on Saturday. Most people were going to Jacksonville for the UGA vs. UF game, so we celebrated the prior Wednesday. After stopping by my friend Kelli’s party, Ames and I headed downtown with two of our Young Dems friends.
Ames was a flapper. Pre-Halloween festivities were the perfect time to wear my cowboy boots with four inch heels, so I was a cowgirl. (The boots were impractical for anything but a costume.) Our friends were a glittery faced Edward Cullen from Twilight and a mobster.
As the night progressed, the boots pinched my feet. All of us (except Ames, who was driving) did rounds of shots at each bar, which numbed the pain. After last call, Edward offered to give me a piggyback ride. As I jumped onto his back, he lost his balance and I tumbled face first onto the pavement.
“MY TEETH!” I stared at the fragments of my teeth and blood splattered on the sidewalk. Two teeth were pushed an inch back, digging into my tongue. My lip was split, bleeding onto my dress.
Ames snapped into her lifeguard handing an emergency mode. “Try not to touch your face. Don’t let your tongue move your teeth back any further.”
Ames drove us to the hospital. I left my dentist a rambling voicemail about my busted teeth. Once we sat in the ER waiting room, our costumed crew got weird looks (even from a guy who was there because he got stabbed). Edward apologized profusely, but I couldn’t help laughing (weakly) at his face, sparkling underneath the fluorescent lights.
After I got stitched (and doped) up, I saw that Dr. M left me a voicemail. He cleared his schedule to work on my teeth and was available as early as I could get there.
“Everybody’s staring, sis.” Raf jerked his head toward the onlookers in Dr. M’s waiting room.
“They probably think I got run over by a bus.” I continued watching the flat screen TV across from us. Dr. M always displayed a slideshow (portfolio, really) of his best work on that TV.
Dr. M winced when he greeted us. “Raffy, you can go home. Sam will call you when we’re done. This is gonna take awhile.” He pulled his goggles down and his gloves up. “Sam, do you have any pictures of your teeth before this happened?”
“Yes.” I fumbled through my purse and found my camera. I showed him a close-up that Ames and I took at the beginning of the night.
After taking a “before” photo, x-rays, and shooting anesthesia into the roof of my mouth, Dr. M gravely explained, “I’m gonna pull the two left teeth forward, do a root canal on and put a crown on the front right one, and then put a brace behind your front seven teeth.”
I squirmed anxiously.
Several hours later, my smile was fixed. One of the dental hygienists took an “after” photo. I wept with gratitude. Dr. M dabbed his brow with a handkerchief and patted my shoulder.
“Come back in three weeks so I can check to see that everything is healing properly.”
Months later, I sat in Dr. M’s waiting area before a regular cleaning. My teeth looked better than ever. The scratches on my face and lip healed. Two older ladies sat beside me, making small talk.
Tired of reading Shape magazine, I turned to the flat screen with Dr. M’s best work slideshow. The next pair of photos were my teeth before and after he worked on them.
The grey-haired lady gasped. “Dr. M is a miracle worker!”
The bespectacled lady clucked worriedly. “I wonder how that happened to that poor girl.”
The poor girl accepted a piggyback ride from a drunk Edward Cullen impersonator. She’s never trusting a glittery vampire again.
When Brie was a child, her diet was extremely limited — it consisted of chicken wings, Dunkaroos frosting, cream from Oreos, and Tropicana orange juice. Because she was nonverbal, it was as though her other senses were heightened. She could smell a glass of orange juice and know that it wasn’t Tropicana. (In her opinion, the generic brand just wasn’t as good.) Fortunately, she’s expanded her culinary horizons as she’s grown up — she eats fruits and vegetables now, too.
I got this fortune from Brie’s birthday dinner. I lost the actual fortune, but kept this photo for inspiration on bad days and as a reminder on good ones.