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  • a.e. macha

What's your hope smell like?

The smell of peeling an orange.

I was born with a sensitive nose. I am known to walk into a room and ask, “What’s that smell??” which my children really enjoy. Bad smells are the worst.  In high school, my Christmas list consisted of Tommy Girl and CK One, which I used quite liberally once received. 

When my son asks what I would like as a gift, I reply “a perfume that smells like you’re peeling an orange.” . Peeling an orange and inhaling the sweet fresh tang is pure bliss. It is distilled hope in a moment.  However, hope is tricky.  Each bag of clementines is like a game of russian roulette; one can be so sweet like candy, and the next sour and mealy.  You just don’t know.  When I experience a good batch of clementines, I have an impulse to go back to the store and buy everyone I know a bag and drop them off house by house so that all can taste the possibility of what could be!  I want a perfume that smells like this moment. There is one perfume that comes close, but it’s more than I want to spend, especially at the rate I would go through a bottle. I tried to create this perfume with an orange essential oil, but the scent does not last. I guess I will just keep playing clementine roulette.

The facing of a great fear.

 I hate the dentist. Now, I know that no one likes going to the dentist. But my case is severe:I loathe the dentist. It is pathological. I had some bad experiences due to unfortunate inheritance of soft teeth, and maybe not the best flossing skills as a child. I had my first root canal in 5th grade.  A string of painful visits followed that involved a spilt nerve that was not detected and meant that I was indeed not lying when I said “I can feel that!”

 No one cares to hear why one hates the dentist because on some level we can be empathetic, but on another level you might give a slight eye roll. Going to the dentist is what we do as adults who take care of ourselves and we are fortunate to be able to. This adds to my shame of not being able to hack it. I successfully avoided going back for years, well into my adulthood. But my avoidance eventually caught up with me early in my thirties. Through many embarrassing tears and the help of some pills from my GP I got through it. .  

That was over ten years ago. The past decade I got serious about never having to go back. Flossing became a habit.  And  I got serious about my kids dental hygiene: brush twice a day, use flossing sticks, and routine check ups with a treat afterwards to make sure they would have a sweet connotation with going to the dentist. Then, in a moment of feeling myself and feeling like a very grown ass woman, I made an appointment at “Gentle Dental.” Thought I would ease myself back into the dental waters since there was no emergency to attend to. They were very gentle and thorough.

They wrote up a care plan that began with getting the infected and rotting wisdom teeth out. So gross. Finally a dental visit that was what dreams are made of. When I arrived that winter morning for my dental surgery, the heat was broken.  The dental staff all wore their winter coats and apologized profusely. I was thrilled. They layered blankets on me as I started to count backwards into twilight and then I was awakened and it was over.  Could all dental visits be like this? 

The following week was not as rosy.. I was in constant fear of dry rot and woah, was super sore. But overtime I healed and began to feel okay. I thought that I would surely continue in the plan laid out for me, but  Covid and quarantine and all the things of 2020 put an end to my little care plan. 

This past fall, as I stood at the tiny desk in the tiny waiting room of our new dentist making the 6 month check up appointments for my kids, the receptionist said, “So what about you? You seem to be the only one who we have not seen yet.”  

“Oh I don’t go to the dentist.” I replied too quickly, without thinking. 

“Well, why don’t you make yourself an appointment 6 months out so you can get used to the idea. You can always cancel it if you change your mind.”  Did she not hear me?  But the shame of what I had loudly declared won out. I made the appointment for February which at the time seemed to be in the very far future. When the reminders started showing up on my phone, I did some relaxing breaths and reminded myself of all the hard things I had done. If I could survive 2 c-sections I could face the dentist.. As I tried to rally myself to face this fear, I realized half the fear was pain, but the other half was facing myself and seeing how I responded to this fear. It was humiliating. I knew I would lose all composure, all strength, any whiff of being a self-reliant strong woman as soon as I walked in. I hate feeling nervous, and I double hate not being able to control how that feels. Oy.  

As a bundle of nerves, I came to the dentist. I filled out the forms and wrote in ALL CAPS. They were properly spooked, and came out to me in the waiting room as though approaching a wounded tiger. I kept breathing. The dental hygienist was very kind and had a practiced ASMR voice that helped greatly. She also gave me two stress balls which were hearts declaring Jesus loves you. I held on for dear life to the little dignity I was hoping to leave with. She started listing the polish flavor options. Bubble gum, mint, vanilla, orange, cinnamon, strawberry . . . Uhh, I was focused on breathing and could not choose, “I don’t know - vanilla or orange?” 

“Well one of those is my favorite, should we go with that?” she responded. “ I just love orange. Especially the smell of oranges. I have this cleaner that smells so good it makes me want to clean everything.”  

“Oh, I love the smell of oranges too!!!” I declared with eyes closed and fists clenched. 

Receiving my enthusiasm she went on to talk about all the uses for this cleaner, how it makes her feel so happy. As she numbs my gums with some gel and starts scraping with tools,he keeps talking, moving from the wonder cleaner to how much she loves each tool she is using because they each do something a little different. I squeeze my Jesus loves you hearts, I focus on breathing and think about how Lucia might enjoy this job as she loves to clean the bones of animal remains she finds in the woods. Maybe cleaning teeth is similar. Lucia could be a dental hygienist. (But then no one would date her, according to Eric McCloy's 3rd rule of life.) 

I make it through. It’s not pleasant, but the thrill of not crying or hyperventilating and hearing that things look pretty good- only two small cavities- makes me feel like a grown up. I get the name of the orange cleaner, make follow up appointments, and get to leave. 

A week later, when the bottle of the cleaner arrives, I am unimpressed by  the large bottle of cleaner with a boring label along with an empty spray bottle. I read all the things that can be cleaned if you adjust the ratio of water to oil. Hmm. I fill the spray bottle with water to ¾ of the way and start pouring oil in with no intention of measuring. The oil hits the water and turns a creamy sunshine color. It reminds me of one of my favorite beers, like drinking liquid sunshine.  Hope of a miracle cleaning spray returns as I start spraying the air and sniffing. 

Been a couple weeks and as I am not a domestic goddess. The bottle of creamy orange sunshine has sat on my bathroom counter as a failed reminder to clean. Finally the other day, in an attempt to avoid the frustration of feeling stuck in a work project, I picked up the bottle and a rag. As I excessively sprayed all the surfaces, I enjoyed the smell of a fresh peeled orange now mixed with resilience, agency, and that hope. I start wiping the bathroom mirror as I think how this hope did not disappoint, even though the fear is not gone. Tricky hope indeed. My next dental appointment is in a few weeks. Maybe I won’t cancel. 

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