I ate popcorn the other night while binge-watching a show on Netflix. Eating popcorn wouldn’t usually stand out in my mind, but a popcorn kernel got lodged between my back two left molars. I felt it right when it happened. It forced itself through the tight space and nestled in for the evening. Or at least I thought it would just be an evening. I took the lazy person’s approach at first, using my fingernail to try to get it out. I didn’t want to have to get up and miss a part of the show, pausing it seemed dramatic, it was only a popcorn kernel. Eventually I gave up and let it stay there, figuring I would get dental floss before I went to bed. I forgot about it though, falling asleep.
The next morning, as soon as I woke up, it reminded me it was there. It didn’t hurt, I could just feel the new addition attached to my gum. I got the dental floss and was prepared to finally say a satisfying goodbye to my new kernel friend. It didn’t come out though. It resisted, the dental floss lodging it in further. I gave up and thought it would work itself out eventually. All day long I couldn’t think of anything else. The tip of my tongue kept dragging itself over it until my tongue had a blister. Now my tongue was sore and my gum was starting to feel a little bit of pain. No one could tell though. I kept it to myself because who wants to tell someone you have a popcorn kernel taking root in your gum? So it became my secret, for me alone to manage.
Days went by, the throbbing pain began mirroring my heartbeat. The unison rhythm of the beat comforted me. I probably should have gone to the dentist at this point, but I liked the secret of the pain. I’ve been told I get attached to weird things. Well, this was probably the weirdest. I knew the dentist would just remove it, toss it aside, and judge me for having taken so long to see him. I couldn’t bear the thought of something I had become so attached to just being removed from me like it was nothing.
As the pain became worse, I started thinking about what people would say at my funeral.
“Why didn’t she go to the dentist?”
“What a waste.”
“She kind of deserved it. How stupid!”
“She always seemed so together, I guess she wasn’t as perfect as she thought she was.”
“I had a feeling something was wrong, she spit a lot when she spoke. Even drooled sometimes.”
I didn’t care about what people would say though. I had strived to be unique all my life with no success. Yet in death, I’m pretty sure I would be the first person killed by a popcorn kernel. I could see the headline, “Woman dies from blood infection because she didn’t want to part with a popcorn kernel stuck in her tooth.” That would make a great story. So I settle back, I stay quiet, I don’t seek help. I’ll let people judge me when I’m dead.