The raging nineties were in the air. More precisely, it was just the beginning of the storm – it was 1992. Mitya opened the corridor door and looked around. Seeing that no one was there, he slammed the door and quickly pulled out the last jar of beans. With a confident movement he hit the lid with his elbow and, holding it to his chest, unscrewed it with a specific sound. The smell of beans spread throughout the student dorm kitchen.
Placing it carefully on the table, Mitya admired his lunch. Today he will have a whole jar of beans, an onion and a crust of black bread. His life principle was simple:
“For happiness, a person only needs tea, bread and toilet paper”
Today he was lucky to have a jar of beans. Thinking with his mouth full about how little a student needed for his life to be filled with all the colors of the rainbow, he suddenly froze. The pain flashed as if someone had driven a nail into his jaw. The smile disappeared from his face.
With difficulty, Mitya chewed what was left in his mouth. “It’s the wisdom tooth,” he thought. After rinsing his mouth with the remains of the previous day’s vodka, he tried to figure out what was going on. The throbbing pain seemed to intensify. He imagined with horror the dentist from the state polyclinic drilling his mouth with a jackhammer, and this made him shudder.
People of the Soviet generation imagined that sinners did not go to Hell, but to the dentist’s office. Forever and ever.
Usually, the dentist’s office was covered with tiles, like in a morgue. The strange and specific smell in the office was worse than the smell of sulfur in hell. They put you in a hard chair and showed you a huge lamp in front of you, which didn’t interfere with contemplating the torture instruments in the metal trays and the spittoons with bloody tampons … And that’s when the pneumatic hammer started and the doctor brought it next to your face, you realized that you had done something terrible in your life, because you have to go through this torment. Screams from neighboring offices confirmed your grim suppositions.
Repentant sinners were given anesthesia, but it was always more like a placebo and worked only for those who believed in it. And those who did not believe suffered. In principle, any religion says this: “Faith shall save you from suffering!” But Mitya had long disbelieved in the Soviet gods of anesthesia. He also did not believe that the pain would go away on its own, so a solution had to be found.
He walked around the room, as if he was cramming a complicated subject before the exam — two steps to the window, a turn, a step to the bed, back to the wall, and again to the window. Usually, these movements helped him distract from reality, but not today. The pain drove him crazy, yet the fear of going to see a doctor was stronger. Mitya realized that there was no hope and began to walk faster. But suddenly he stopped.
“And why go to the state polyclinic? No one is forcing me. What if… ”- he slapped himself on the forehead as if he remembered something, gave a scream of pain and opened the closet. He took out the “Markov Chain Theory” and pulled out dozens of dirty banknotes. This was the student’s bank, and his savings were worth about 400 lei ($ 30). Mitya was putting money aside to get a programmable computer with a screen he had been dreaming of for half a year. He admired the computer image that appeared in his head and was about to close the book again, but a nuclear explosion of pain ruthlessly destroyed the image. The tooth pain tormented him. Firmly putting the money in his pocket, Mitya ran to the trolleybus station.
Every day he passed by this private dental clinic – it was right next to the Polytechnic institute. Mitya went inside, pretending that he had been to such clinics before. He carelessly took off his gray coat, which looked more like a floor cloth than a coat. At the reception he was met by a pretty girl in a dressing gown:
— Hi, how can I help you?
Mitya began to talk about his pain, looking around. It was perfectly clean around, marble, glass, paintings and pleasant music. All this foreshadowed trouble. But what made Mitya distrustful was the lack of queues. He was the only patient. “This is a very bad sign,” Mitya thought, following the girl down the hall adorned with Chinese vases.
They put him in a dental chair. The smiling girl disappeared, and was replaced by a Doc. But it wasn’t the doctor wearing a robe with suspicious stains, and it wasn’t either the doctor with the creepy instruments from childhood nightmares. He looked more like an American dentist from Hollywood movies.
— What’s the trouble? — The Doc asked in a dazzling smile.
— My tooth aches — Mitya said, squinting at the bright light.
— So weird… — the Doc exclaimed. Never had such a case in my practice. Open your mouth.
The Doc gently tapped his teeth, glancing inquiringly at Mitya, until he finally touched the very one that destroyed the dream of the PC. Mitya jerked. The Doc leaned back in his chair and folded his arms over his chest.
— What can I say, my dear, congratulations — your wisdom tooth woke up. It means you’re an adult now and you don’t need it anymore.
— Do we have to pull it out? Can we cure it?
— We can’t cure these teeth, my dear. Better remove it, otherwise you will suffer.
Mitya sighed, making it clear that he agreed.
— What anesthesia shall we do? We have American and Japanese.
— Which one’s better?
— I’d choose the American one, of course.
Mitya nodded in approval. The Doc filled a thin syringe with a kind of pink solution, asked about allergy and gave him several injections into his gums.
— Have a rest now. The painkiller will work in about ten minutes and last about an hour. It’s a great thing, you won’t feel anything – the Doc said as if guessing Mitya’s thoughts, then smiled and left.
Mitya relaxed. The pain disappeared and was replaced by the feeling of belonging to the world of the elite in the capitalist paradise. The nurse’s voice brought him back from his dreams of a bright future.
— Maybe you would like to read a magazine?
Mitya returned to earth. “Magazine?” — sounds too much. What level of service is this? Maybe there’s a reason …
— Better tell me how much is a tooth extraction?
— 300 lei — the beauty smiled.
Mitya sighed with relief…
— Anesthesia is another 200.
Mitya sat down in an armchair. „Total 500 lei??? What a dumbhead I am! Why didn’t I ask before?” He reached into his pocket and took out the money: “I want to pay.”
And there Mitya was already standing in the street, practically with no money left, but with a sick tooth that temporarily did not hurt him. “It’s an expensive pleasure not to feel pain for an hour,” Mitya thought sadly, and suddenly an idea came to his head. Another would have given up as nonsense, but such thoughts often appeared in Mitya’s head, so he took them seriously.
“Where is the nearest state clinic here?” – thought Mitya and ran. He had 40 minutes left.
It was hard to run, but Mitya was empowered by the countdown in his head: 38 minutes, 37 minutes, 36 … He realized that he had to arrive on time and, therefore, despite his heart pounding in his chest, he ran as fast as he could to the nearest clinic. He overtook the passers-by, pushing them aside and apologizing loudly, crossing the street in unallowed places – the allowed pedestrians were too far away, and time was running out.
There was the clinic. 30 minutes left. Mitya hurried up to the second floor and immediately came across the main attraction of state clinics. It was usually anxious and unhappy, saying loud words of disgrace. But now it was listening obediently along the wall and looking sympathetically. It was the queue to the dentist’s. Probably it was the only queue in the world where no one wanted to be first. Reading this truth on gloomy faces, Mitya ran to the door, grimaced in pain, and said:
— I just need to ask something!
— We all need to ask something! — the queue responded predictably.
— My tooth aches a lot — Mitya whimpered in a weeping voice.
— Our teeth ache a lot, too, and we’ve been here for two hours already!
Mitya realized that the dialogue had reached an impasse, and time was running. There were about 25 minutes left. He did not want to fight with the sick for a place under the pneumatic hammer, so he decided to act by trickery. He looked at the name on the door, went out into the hallway, waited for a nurse who was going to the dentist’s office, clung to her and began to tell her that Andrey Petrovich (the name on the door) recommended him to rinse teeth with vodka, and if it doesn’t help, contact him personally. The girl frowned, but didn’t stop. Mitya needed that. When they reached the door, she opened it and motioned for him to enter. The queue was silent. Mitya stepped into the tiled hell and slammed the door behind him.
He found himself in a large hall where several doctors worked. When the nearest armchair was released by another sinner, Mitya resolutely climbed into it. Mitya’s internal clock indicated only 15 minutes left. The doctor came and, wiping his hands with a not very clean towel, asked:
— What’s the trouble?
— The exam in specific environments in anti-fields. — Mitya tried to joke to make the doctor relax. — My tooth aches.
The doctor didn’t even smile, and that was a bad sign.
— Open your mouth. The doctor knocked all the teeth by the usual method, but the American anesthesia worked and Mitya did not feel anything.
— The wisdom one, lower jaw – Mitya tried to articulate, his mouth wide open.
— I see. All right you joker, we’ll pull it out. – Anya, novocaine.
— Doctor, let’s go without anesthesia?
The doctor looked tiredly at Mitya.
— Are you trying to play the hero?
— No, I’ve been training for a long time and I can stop the pain at will — Mitya improvised.
The doctor smiled grimly. This patient promised fun, which was lacking in his practice.
— As you say. Anya, the tongs!
Mitya touched the inside of the gum with his tongue – it was still well frozen. Mitya grabbed the chair tightly.
The doctor applied the tongs and looked doubtfully at Mitya. He replied with an uncertain look. The doctor pressed. Mitya heard a slight crack, but did not feel pain. Exhaling lightly in his mind, he tried to smile.
The doctor removed the tongs and stared at the patient in surprise.
— Can’t you feel anything?
— Should I?
— – Anyuta, come here. Look, I’m pulling his wisdom tooth, and he’s sitting without an anesthetic. A yogi.
Anyuta looked with disbelief at the doctor, then at Mitya. The doctor put his tongs in his mouth again, and something cracked. Mitya put on a dull face.
Anya gaped in surprise:
— How do you…errrr, does it hurt?
Mitya shook his head. Doctors gathered around and watched with curiosity the show “Take my tooth out without painkillers!”
Finally, the doctor made an effort and took the tooth out of Mitya’s mouth. The patient didn’t even jerk. Anya applauded. The doctors looked with interest first at the tooth, then at Mitya, asked about his childhood and whether he had had any head. Injury. And how he came about such a gift. Mitya was trying to joke, but it was clear that he was bathing in the light of glory and he liked it.
Glancing at Anyuta, who was looking at him with such admiration, Mitya told the doctors about autogenic training, self-suggestion, meditation and yogic practices. He spiced up everything he ever heard with Petri nets, quantum field theory, and Gantt’s philosophy. It sounded very convincing and Mitya, encouraged by nodding doctors, students with open eyes and patients who had forgotten about their problems, lectured to the enlightened minds of Soviet medicine on controlling pain receptors. Suddenly Mitya fell silent. He felt that the American elixir was about to expire.
— Well, that’s it! We hope we won’t see you again, thank you!
— Good luck! Thank you, don’t get sick! So impressive! Good luck – doctors said goodbye.
Mitya approached Anyuta and said:
— I could tell you many more interesting things. Here’s my phone number.
— Absolutely, goodbye! – Anya smiled.
Mitya finally smiled at everyone and left the clinic.
He was happy – he got rid of a bad tooth, gave a lecture to the doctors and met a girl. It was a lovely day. If it weren’t for the growing pain. He tried to ignore it, but the pain increased. And it was not just a pain from a pulled out tooth but…. It was the familiar morning pain. Mitya stopped. Putting his finger in his mouth, he felt the hole. He looked around, saw a trolleybus stop, ran to the trolley, opened his mouth and looked in the mirror. There he saw the reflection of his mouth.
He could not believe his eyes – the wisdom tooth was there unharmed, and only a black spot remained next to its neighbor …
Mitya closed his eyes and swore so hard that an old woman passing by crossed herself. Mitya sighed and opened his eyes …
— Well, I’ll be wiser — Mitya thought sadly, and went to buy analgesic from a Soviet pharmacy.