socket dream.
© 1997 Jamie Zawinski <>

My teeth were out of socket.

In the waking world this doesn't make much sense, but at the time what it meant was that, for a number of my teeth, the ball-and-socket joints by which the teeth connected to the jaw were wedged into an unmovable, painful position.

It was excruciating.

I had only one option: grab a tooth. Pull. Hard. Then let go, and let it snap, slam back into place, and hope it reseated itself properly.

This, too, was excruciating.

And incredibly difficult; pulling the tooth out far enough to unwedge from its improper position was like trying to open a door in a hurricane: as soon as I let go, it ripped itself from my fingers.

Thinking about this later, I remembered the scene in Lethal Weapon where Mel Gibson is tied up under water, and has to dislocate his shoulder to get out. He later puts it back where it belongs by slamming his body into a wall. I found that I had a new sympathy for his character in that scene.

As with most of my tooth dreams, this one seemed absolutely, unquestionably real. But what was unusual about this one was that, upon waking, and having that familiar sense of relief at realizing that it was only a dream, I first noticed that my jaw hurt... a lot. Then I noticed that my pillow was soaked through with blood.

Then I woke up again.

My jaw still hurt, but my pillow was mercifully dry.

I can't offhand remember having had another nested dream like that, though one seem them all the time in movies... I wasn't sure they actually happened, much like the observation made in Living in Oblivion that all dream sequences seem to have dwarves in them, despite the fact that nobody, not even dwarves, actually have dreams with dwarves in them.

This dream was a week ago, but I've been thinking about it frequently. I can still hear the wet, sucking-pop that my teeth made when the pulled themselves home. I can feel it in my bones.

Which brings us to the Discovery Channel.

Normally, when I'm flipping channels and happen across scenes of surgery, I just keep right on going. Yes, I love horror movies, but that shit just gleeps me out way too much. It's just a little bit too personal.

Yet, I sometimes find myself strangely compelled.

For example, one evening I was zooming by, and I saw a gloved hand pulling skin back over pale blue-and-white bone or cartilage. The hand was reaching under the skin to loosen it. I flipped away. It gnawed at me: what part of the body was that? I had to know. I flipped back. It was a knee. It had to be. They were opening up someone's knee. I flipped away. Was that a knee? I flipped back. I stared. I watched a finger move underneath skin that was not its own. I recognized the bony protrusion the finger was sliding up against, underneath the skin. It was a nose. I was looking down on someone's shaved head, with their skin peeled back, a doctor's hand feeling around underneath their face. I cried out, turned off the TV, and had a twitching fit of the willies.

Tonight there was a show on about a girl with a terrible underbite: her lower jaw stuck out far enough that when her mouth was closed, she could get two fingers between the gap in her teeth. Clean, pretty computer simulations showed how they intended to correct this, by cutting her upper and lower jaws into pieces, and rearranging the foundations of her face like a jigsaw puzzle.

I watched the whole thing. I couldn't stay away. Was it just some kind of monkey reflex, unable to look away from horror? Or was I subconsciously trying to get over this Tooth Thing by confronting my fears?

They sawed her jaw apart. It was still attached by skin and tendons and muscles at the front, and at the bottom (``I couldn't just take this out and hand it to somebody,'' the doctor said, as he wiggled the piece of bone around inside her mouth) and eventually they put it all back together, in a slightly different place, with screws. Phillips-head screws.

Before that, there was a moment when her lower jaw was wide open, but her teeth were together: her upper jaw was no longer attached to her skull, and a new bloody horizontal slash lay above her upper teeth, gaping open on her sinuses and nasal cavity.

When there was a place they couldn't reach through her mouth, they got to it by poking a small hole in her cheek, and stretching it open with a thin plastic tube. I wondered, does she get a trendy facial piercing out of the deal as well? Just then the doctor said that the hole would close up invisibly by the next day.

And, just as your auto mechanic might mention other things he might as well do ``as long as it's all apart,'' the doctor took out her wisdom teeth, just for the hell of it. But, since her jaw was in pieces, her upper jaw dangling away from its rightful place below the rest of her head, they took out the teeth from the top. ``This wouldn't really be a practical way to do it, normally,'' the doctor mentioned.

My dentist told me that I should have my wisdom teeth out. They're not causing a problem now, but they'll never come through. I plan on sticking to a non-aggression policy: as long as they leave me alone, I'll leave them alone.

[ up ]