i have a chipped front tooth. you’ve never seen it because i’ve gotten it filled three times in the past year and a half. the filling keeps falling out because the chip in the tooth is too small to fill properly which for most people would mean that they’d leave the chip alone and trust that no one would notice the tiny divot. but not me. i smile my way through this world, diverting your attention from things i don’t want you to see, and i’m afraid the enchantment web of my smile won’t cast properly with a chipped front tooth. some flaws are endearing but insecurity isn’t one of those. this chipped front tooth flaw clips my confidence and scrapes at my self-esteem. not from vanity, but from fear.
because i’m afraid of living with this chipped tooth and because i’m the kind of brave that confronts my fears, i made myself wait three days before i called the dentist to make an emergency appointment to fill the chipped tooth for the fourth time. my dentist has seen my whole face quiver while trying not to cry after handing me the mirror once he has filled the chip. that chipped tooth hides what i’m afraid to see, what i’m afraid to show, what i’m afraid to ask for.
i’m afraid you’ll see the trembling hungry girl who is suddenly afraid she’ll be caught stealing if she doesn’t dazzle you with her smile.
i’m afraid you’ll hear the songs i sing to myself in a voice just above a whisper that comfort me when i think i’m alone.
i’m afraid you’ll smell the tears on my breath that get stuck in my throat, coating my tongue with salt.
i’m afraid to let you close enough to see my chipped tooth.
i’m afraid to ask you to love me with my obvious flaws.
because i’ve lived with this chipped tooth for a few days, a few people i trust have seen it. one of them lovingly mocked me. another dismissed my fears. one friend listened without glancing at my teeth or commenting on the feelings i shared. my therapist told me to call the damn dentist pronto. my therapist doesn’t particularly approve of my diving into the fire of my fears pattern.
i have a dentist appointment in the morning. he’ll fill the chip again. my teeth will look perfect again. but they’re not perfect. my teeth are my body part closest to perfect and they are nowhere near perfect. you can’t tell by looking at them, but half my teeth are chipped, all from the backside where you can’t see, except for the front tooth that will be filled again tomorrow. tomorrow i’ll tuck my fears into that filling where they’ll be covered up, safe, and protected. tonight my tongue plays with the missing space where tooth and filling have fallen away and i sing to myself just above a whisper about the ways i’m trying to grow stronger.