Friday, July 24, 2009

Recurring Dream

I am optimistically calling this memory—pushing it safely into the past—which is not inaccurate. I haven't had the dream in a long, long time. Used to be frequent, this recurring dream of mine. I remember that it never failed to freak me out. I would wake from one of these dreams and feel diseased, tainted, unkempt in a mud-hut, Third World kind of way. I would experience a vague dread and need to take a cold shower to wake up and shake off these feelings. Before I could get up, though, I would have to check my teeth to make sure they were all there and none of them loose. The dream was simple: I would lose or be on the verge of losing my teeth. Often, the teeth would just be loose and not fall out. Sometimes, I would find them in my dream-hand. I remember one time, in the dream suddenly my teeth were rocking violently in my mouth, the gums giving way to them, unable to hold on. I clamped my jaws tightly together, knowing that if I opened my mouth to speak—if I let up the pressure keeping my teeth in place—the teeth would fall out and I'd be left without a smile at best; at worst, unable to chew or speak properly. When I woke from that dream, my jaws were truly locked together, sore from grinding. I don't know what the dream is supposed to mean. I remember that at one point I looked up the symbol in some sort of dream encyclopedia, but I no longer know the proposed significance. I think it did make some difference (in terms of portent) whether the teeth fell out or were only loose. I had both versions of the dream many, many times, particularly in my twenties. As I said, I haven't had it in a while, which is good. It's interesting, though, how deeply this dream experience always affected me; how it got at some archetypal fear, made me think of ruin, of my own mortality (though as I age the dream happens less). I wonder how much of this is cultural. Probably a lot. I know that Americans rank very high on the global chart of the teeth-obsessed, and that I'd be rich if I had a dime for every time I heard that "Europeans have bad teeth." To say nothing of people in places with neither orthodontists nor basic dentistry. It does sometimes seem frivolous to worry about teeth, at least from an aesthetic standpoint. I try to keep my twice-yearly preventive appointments, but don't pay for services or products to whiten my teeth. Still, I am concerned. I want to keep my teeth; keep them in my mouth where they belong. I don't know what's prompted this memory tonight, but there it is. Now, it's time to sleep. And hopefully to dream of something entirely different—no insufficiencies, no gaps, no gaping black hole where a smile should be. A world where smiles come easy and complete.

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