He warned me to expect what he described as a slight scratching sensation.
His mouthwash blue eyes followed the business end of the Novocain-charged hypodermic, as he located its point on the soft felting under the roof of my mouth. He caught my own eyes for a half-second of human recognition, then drifted away to something behind and beyond my reclined head, fractionally off the map, lulled by the routine of it all. I almost expected a yawn. He looked exhausted enough.
Drifting clearly being the thing, I thought about the tableau I’d seen outside on my arrival. The trio of men in tangerine hi-vis jackets probing a hole opened up in the high street using the biggest toothpick I’d ever seen. I could still hear the impatient blaring of car horns caught in the backlog, despite the muffler effect of the buildings.
I pictured the three of them, knocking off soon or thinking about it anyway, their retreat to an unloved guesthouse somewhere or a pallet in a damp shipping container. Rinsing away another day with bottles of imported lager. Some perfunctory text messaging to a loved or lusted-after one. Small screen poker, pornography. Or maybe Sartre instead? Origami. All of it unfair, ridiculous.
I started to come back. But what to? Small, sensitive parts of me were beginning to go numb, to take on a feeling of not feeling, advancing down a track towards not really being there. On the ceiling overhead, out of the Hollywood glare of surgery lighting, he’d blu-tacked a troop of butterflies snipped out of stiff paper by his twin girls in kindergarten. Some were green, some yellow. One was orange.
I watched them swirl around, the beating of their huge, flimsy wings surely an impossibility when their bodies were so relatively tiny. I imagined my own arms in similar proportions, how long they would have to be, how ungainly and incapable of butterfly grace.
He raised the shaft of the drill, already whirring, up towards my mouth.
“Tap the arm of the chair,” he said, “if you need to take a break.”