Two hours in the dental chair, two syringes of Novocaine, one new crown. We talk about David Bowie, Donald Trump, Bernie; Florida, Mexico, Montreal; mattresses, computers, violin sonatas, discothèques. The chairside conversation moves seamlessly from English (with me) to French (with the dental assistant, who is Indian) with smatterings of German, Italian, Spanish. Trump isn't electable, I offer, through a mouth packed with cotton. "Oh yes he is, my dear," says the dentist. "'Give me your freedom, and in exchange I'll give you back everything you think you've lost.'" He is Romanian, and knows dictators, and I haven't the ability to argue, with all these fingers and metallic objects in my mouth.
When we're finally finished he says Auf Wiedersehen, and raises the chair. I answer Danke schön, and rise slowly, massaging my neck, and when I glance over at him, he's doing the same thing, grimacing. "Where did our twenty-year-old bodies go?" I ask, and laugh. He smiles: "We're aging gracefully," and puts his arm around my shoulder. "And with humor," I add. "Black as it is!"
Outside on St Catherine street at 2:00 pm, snow is falling steadily. I gulp lungfuls of the cold, damp air before entering the underground, buy a carrot muffin that I stash in my purse, and then stop in a public bathroom where I'm shocked to see my paralyzed face in the mirror, one side of my mouth frozen and drooping; I look like I've had a stroke. I pull my scarf around my jaw and take the metro to Papineau, where I wait in the snow to catch a grimy double bus north, feeling battered and hungry, and wondering when the anesthetic will have worn off enough that I can eat something without biting a hole in my face.
But when the bus starts up the hill, we pass a cherry tree, still loaded with bright red fruits, each cluster sporting a topknot of snow, and when I turn around to watch this marvel recede in the window I notice that the young woman behind me is studying a difficult classical piano score. I can't see the composer's name, just that it is a prelude, probably Bach, and I take a deep breath as I press the buzzer for my stop and allow the world to rearrange before stepping out into the clean snow.