Itamar, my brother, walked into my room and asked me to help with a problem he was having. His eyes were red and watery, which went perfect with his worried expression. It was night, probably past 10 PM., and he had just arrived home from school. My parents were watching television in their room just down the hall from mine, with their door open, so we could hear them talking. I think I even heard my brother saying ‘hi’ to them before coming to see me.
“Hey man,” he started. “I need some help.” Normally, it wouldn’t have worried me so much to hear him say this, but his expression, as I’ve already noted, was one of turgid worry. “Sure, man. What’s up?” I asked.
He began telling me his problem, which had to do with his girlfriend. It was a typical problem between young lovers, so it was only my advice that he was after. While I listened, and in between snippets of suggestions, I kept looking for my pipe, which I distinctly remembered putting down a few minutes before, as I watched television. But now it was impossible to find, which I found weird, but didn’t give it a second thought. I gave up on that task and just sat by my window as I took in the rest of his story, looking out into the dark from time to time, so as to ponder what he was saying as I admired the curious way the Moon seemed to be shimmering that night.
Suddenly, as he spoke, I began feeling my mouth get filled with something. My cheeks swelled up and I immediately began spitting, not able to contain it any longer. It was then that I realized, to my great and horrifying surprise, that it was in fact my teeth that were falling off the gums like ripe oranges being plucked invisible hands. Completely befuddled and terrified, I spat them all on my hand, leaving a trail of blood and saliva dangling from my lips and finger-tips.
“Ahhh!!! What the fuck is going on!!??” I began screaming, shoving my hands full of teeth in front of his face. “My fuckin’ teeth are falling off, man!” Itamar, apparently entirely unperturbed, dismissed what I was saying as not important in comparison to his own troubles, and demanded that I shut up and hear him. “It’s nothing, man,” he was saying as he waved my histrionics away. “You’ll be fine…just listen!”
Of course I couldn’t pay attention to what he was saying anymore, and I wasn’t sure if to be more shocked at the terrifying events unfolding or at the fact that he didn’t seem to care. I looked desperately for a mirror and, upon finding one on the back-stance of my bed, I looked at my disfigured countenance in horror. My mouth had not a single tooth in it, but only fleshy and bloody gums with holes where the teeth should have been. I examined every orifice carefully, pricking the empty gum-sockets with my fingers and agonizing in pain. I yelled in horror again, but that feeling quickly subsided…
The following realization happened in fractions of a second, as my brother’s voice continued piercing my ears in the background. Despite my terror, I was nevertheless able to realize that what was happening simply didn’t make sense. “This can’t be,” I thought to myself. “I’ve seen this happen to me…many times before….” I tried getting a hold of myself before I finished that thought by taking a deep breath. Then I looked into the mirror again, this time more calmly, as I knew what to expect. When I saw that same disfigured face, I studied it carefully, blocking out Itamar’s words and just trying to really focus on the gruesome image in front of me. “The teeth of a 24 year old don’t just fall off in real life,” I thought to myself again…”And I’ve seen this happen to me before…over and over again…in…” And again I trailed off.
But as I continued to make these connections, the sound of my brother’s voice came rushing back with a booming, resonant echo, like hearing waves crashing against rocks from inside a tunnel. He was still completely uninterested in what I was doing – unaware even! I then looked squarely at him and, with a soft and resolute tone in my voice said, “Holy shit, Itamar….I think I’m dreaming.”
Now, usually around this part, I would wake up abruptly in my bed, perhaps spitting, thinking I really had loose teeth trying to fall off, or perhaps with a violent jolt, caused by that feeling of falling, and then ponder in the dark about what I had just seen, typically disappointed that I’d woken up at that crucial moment. But this time, I remained in the dream.
Itamar kept talking, starring straight at me as if convinced that I was listening to his every word. It was almost as if he had not even noticed that I was not paying attention to him anymore as I fumbled with my bloody gums. In fact, it was as if I was watching the entire thing from above, or literally like a fly on the wall. I couldn’t see my body – I guess it was floating, attached to my eyes; but I could see everything else in the scene, including Itamar, positioned as if I was in fact still sitting there, in front of him, listening. Itamar spoke looking in the direction I had been sitting, completely uninterrupted in his tale of woe, and his face, mannerisms and everything he uttered said that to him, I was still sitting in front of him, listening attentively.
I then heard a voice interrupting him again, trying to convince him I was dreaming….At first I couldn’t see anybody, but then I realized the voice was my own.
“It’s just a dream, man! None of those problems are real!” I looked all around the room, taking advantage of the bird’s eye view I had, but I couldn’t see myself. Yet, Itamar answered back, still starring in front of him, as if talking directly to me. “I told you already: shut up with that! I have a real problem! Are you fuckin’ high right now!!?!?”
“Why else would my teeth be falling off, man?!?!” I asked him with a desperate lilt in my voice, though I suspect I was trying to convince myself more than him. As soon as I said this, he turned quiet and just sat back. It looked at first as if he was getting ready to continue his tirade, but something was happening, which seemed to put me in control of the entire scene.
I said to him, this time calmly and resolutely, as I began examining my entire body and the walls and the floors and even himself: “No…this isn’t real.” As I was saying this, the entire scene seemed to stall for a second – to lag for just a fraction of a second, but long enough for me to notice that something had changed; it was like a small glitch in a video game that makes the screen freeze for such a tiny second that if you blink, you don’t even notice it, except that I did notice it. Itamar was in fact getting ready to continue his diatribe, but he was moving with such an exaggerated slowness, like a movie in ultra-slow motion, that I would’ve been able to run around him a thousand times before he got his first word out, because I myself could hear, think, talk and even move at normal speed. And again, he seemed unaware of my apparent out-of-body experience.
Realizing I was now in control, I shut my eyes tightly and braced myself, as if I was getting ready to jump into an abyss, but sure I’d make it. When I opened them, the scene’s speed had returned to normal, and Itamar kept talking as if I was still in front of him listening. Apparently nothing had changed…though I felt different…renewed.
I approached the mirror slowly with my eyes shut as Itamar continued talking; I wasn’t sure of what I was going to see, but I felt as if, for some reason, I knew…I opened them slowly…
In the mirror, there was a face full of teeth starring back at me, and I realized it was my own.
I had made my teeth reappear….