The Honest Tease?

Imagine an ironic love machine. In private, I tease you. I mean all the off color things I say about you. And, depending upon the kind of person you are, you love every word, not because they are complimentary (often times they aren’t and when they are- completely double edged and ambiguous) but because I couldn’t have made these contentious remarks at all if I wasn’t completely and utterly fascinated by you. And ‘fascination,’ you might come to realize, is a far purer ante-cedent to affection than simple ‘approval’ or ‘agreement.’

A Mouth Only A ‘Grandmother Arlene’ Could Love.

This weekend, Grandma Arlene took me to get my wisdom teeth removed.

Here are some of the more emasculating high-lights:

1. As the Novocain needle juts into my gums and rubbery numbness coats the left side of my mouth, I can hear Grandma talking to the nurses in the next room.
“He’s tried to get a job in the City. Nobody is hiring. Do you know any law firms that need . . .?“

2. After the procedure, my mouth is numb and bloody. The doctor instructs me to bite down on a swab of gauze covering the wound so as to promote healing and control bleeding. As you would imagine, speech is uncomfortable if not impossible. As we enter the car, however, my Grandma, like a gold fish, can’t seem to remember the condition of my mouth explained to her five minutes before and keeps asking questions that require answers beyond that of a chin nodding ’yes’ or head shaking ’no.’
“So how did they do it, Ant? What did they use? Did they use pliers? What did they use?”
For this, I have but one weapon available to me; Tyra Banks’ “Dead Eye.” Grandma gets the hint and says:
“Oh, okay, you can’t talk. . . “
We listen to the radio for awhile until my Grandmother’s cell phone rings. It is my mom. My Grandma begins to tell my mom about the operation. And then, inexplicably hands the phone to me: “It’s your mother, tell her how you are feeling. . . . “
I once again call upon the silent language of “America’s Next Top Model” and “Smile With My Eyes.”
“Oh, you can’t talk still? Okay. Sherry,” she says taking the phone back to her mouth, “He says he can’t talk still. Do you want him to call you when we get home?”

3. Before we go home, Grandma graciously takes me to the A&P in order to stock up on soft, cool food stuffs fit for my haggard mouth. As we wheel twin shopping carts full of protein drinks and Activia yogurt back to the car, my Grandmother, apropos of nothing, says:
“Do you know how much that operation cost me?”
When I don’t answer, my Grandmother yells: “Huh? Do you know how much that cost me? It cost me so much I can’t even kill you anymore. It would waste too much money!”
And that is when my Grandmother loses control of her shopping cart and lightly crashes into an oncoming Hyundai.
“Sorry!” She yells. When the car moves on, she says: “Look what you made me do!”

4.  9 a.m. the next morning I am sleeping. My Grandmother walks into my bedroom, stands over my bed and looking at my unconscious body says, “Do you want to sleep still?”
When, still asleep, I don’t answer, she asks again, “Do . . YOU . . WANT . . TO . . . SLEEP . . . STILL!?!?!”
At this point, I wake up. Noticing I am conscious, she asks: “Do you want to sleep still?”

5. On the second day, in order to prevent infection, the doctor prescribes a salt rinse about every three hours. Grandma Arlene, for reasons known by none [especially not herself], becomes maniacally fixated on the salt rinse and institutes a Draconian schedule to insure its regular implementation.

However, not even Arlene’s inexplicable obsession with salt-as-health can compensate for her tragicomic loss of short term memory. On the third interval of scheduled rinsing, I am on the toilet. Though we are in a one-bedroom apartment and my whereabouts can be determined through a simple process of elimination (not in the kitchen, not in the bedroom. . . ), Grandma decides to yell:
“ANT! Where are you!?!?! Where the hell did you go!?!?! YOU NEED TO —”
Grandma, mid-Banshee call, has forgotten the words “salt and rinse.” Not one to be stopped by mere Alzheimer’s, Arlene begins to yell – “You need TO DO YOUR MOUTH!!! Come on! DO YA’ MOUTH!!!”
When I get out of the bathroom my Grandma is incensed. “Where WERE you!?!? You need to -”
“’Do my mouth,’ Grandma?” I ask with a facetiously arched eye brow.
“Yeah, what is it called?”
But I am too busy gurgling to answer her.


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