For a brief period of time, I thought my retainer might be killing me. I took it from my mouth one morning and considered it in the bathroom’s peach light. I was feeling particularly strange: skin vibrating, my nerves shifting in palpitating clusters, my mind releasing its chemical signals to warn of a “vague disquiet” on the floor. Yet the previous morning had dawned on a healthier Me, one who’d risen without a retainer in his mouth. By detective logic, couldn’t I reason that the retainer was the only variable at play?
My $700 piece of plastic bears the face of a dog, striped like a skunk with googly eyes that spend a few nights a week staring blankly into the floor of my mouth. Watching the occasional spider slip in while I slept. Wondering, maybe, why the orthodontist had cursed them with sight.
Unidentified white plaque covers its surface like thin plaster. However many years I’ve had this thing, shoving it over my teeth whenever I get the notion, and I’ve never cleaned it that well. Just the precursory brush, but a suggestion sourced either from memory or a mislabeled dream tells me to soak the retainer in a glass of mouth wash. A suggestion I’ve never taken, as a part of my broader neglect of hygiene etiquette, including daily showers and cleaning toenails.
It could be the retainer, poisoning me slowly in the night. The fact that I’d sunk so low as to pinpoint my retainer as the killer in the shadows just illustrates how desperate I was to put a face on my persecutor. Medical technology had marked off cardiac, respiratory, and gastro-intestinal issues, and I had little left to rest the problem on. “I’d rather it be you,” I said to the jiggling eyes of my retainer, “than a stranger.”