I chipped a tooth yesterday. It is minuscule, a change that will likely go unnoticed. Something new, that I doubt anyone but me could possibly see, and yet something that has weighed on my mind since I first felt its sharpened edge on the tip of tongue.
I do not know how it happened -- which is a lie. I remember, about a year ago, a kiss. We were both too eager, but still to new to not be awkward, and our teeth connected instead of our lips. It hurt, and but I ignored it, and you ignored it too, at my urgings. Later, I saw a line in it, what could just as easily be some sort of stain, or the epoxy from the bridge hooked behind it. I did not know better, I thought perhaps, that was as bad it was ever going to get.
And yesterday, it went. It's tiny, and beyond notice to anyone but someone who is looking, and my obsessiveness is less indicative of its seriousness, and more about my free time. But I obsess, worry it makes me ugly, worry that some brilliant girl with a bright face and beautiful eyes might see it, and read me as some jagged tooth yokel, a backwater hick without insurance [truth], whose hyena-like mouth [hyperbole] outs him as the loser he is; no job, no income, no prospects, just a busted visage too hard to love. And worse than even that, is if she'll look at me, and think me perfect, but have some hang-up, as we all, quite obviously, do, and my lack of perfect dental hygiene, that single mar in a straight line of pearly whites, will be the neurotic deal-breaker, which will render internet buddies, former acquaintances, just friends.
I sometimes feel like all I've been trying to do is stone myself to the changes of the world, hold down pause and keep myself immaculate, as close as mint in box as you can be once outside it, so when I finally come out on the other side of all this, I'll still have my baseline. I'll still be me, as I was when things were better, as I try to be today. And then, when that day comes, I can willingly fall to pieces, leave so many of the good, attractive qualities behind, because there will be a time, and a place, and a way, to make new ones, to be better than just how I was born. And I know, friends will read this, they will say to me "Randall, you cannot put the world on pause, there was no save before you quit."
They are right. And it would be hard, I think, to say that all of that above was remotely true. For I have cut my hair, and I now wear white, and I have done things, adult things, that the me before it all went south, before I went south again, would never have dreamed of doing. I have lived at least a little, and let go of more of things that I still wanted to be holding when I got where ever it was that I thought I was going. I will walk out lighter on the other side.
And I smile, to myself, because when do I smile to anyone? And even I barely see this chip, and try though I might no photo could be taken of the offending mar other than an obscene close-up of an incisor, no more recognizable as mine than anyone else's. Even if, already I can hear the choruses of "are you sure it wasn't always like that?" and "perhaps it gives you character, punk-rock character, and haven't you always wanted that?"
The answer to both those questions might be yes, but being a rock has never had much to do with personal wants; maintaining one's self isn't resistance to change, but immunity. And maybe someday some one will look at me, and maybe they'll notice that which will probably only ever be on my mind, and they will see character. Whoever she may be, may hold me close, and look closer, and decide that imperfection is something she will like.
But I can't know that. And all these things I can't know are getting in the way of trying to maintain.