Ships inside of bottles

As a summer assignment for my AP English Literature class, we had to read the book Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (GRAMMAR CRISIS!  Wordpress won’t let me underline that book title…).  I don’t know if you’ve heard of or read the book before, but it’s quite the anti-war/postmodernist piece of work.  Reading Vonnegut is such an experience because of his distinct style of writing and the satirical brevity of words.  My teacher assigned us a Slaughterhouse-Five journal entry, for which our prompt was simply “So it goes.”  (“So it goes” is a recurring ‘theme’ throughout the book)  I’ll admit that I exaggerated my situation for the purpose of writing this, but it’s all in good fun.  Here’s what I wrote.

My mom swerved our white Dodge Caravan into the parking lot of the orthodontics center and maneuvered the vehicle into the nearest vacant spot.  Accustomed to the routine, my ten-year old body hopped out of the car and started off towards the sliding glass doors.  Upon entering the office, I scribbled my name and appointment time on the sign-in pad and took a seat on the leather couch.  The receptionist shot me a cordial smile as she swiveled her chair over to the cabinets to locate my file.  Just another monthly visit to the orthodontist.

Before I could even finish leafing through the National Geographic Kids article on “incredible dolphin tales,” the orthodontist called me in for my customary check-up.  He swiftly replaced my upper wire, tightened the bottom wire, and swapped the green bracket colors for my designation of metallic purple this time.  “Your braces should be off soon– probably this summer,” he confirmed.

Seven years and eighty visits to the orthodontist later, metal remains a defining feature of my face.  I’ve endured everything from jaw X-rays to rubber bands to the infamous, lisp-inducing ‘tongue-cage’, even reaching a point in my orthodontic history in which I couldn’t close my bite all the way.  My smile (now quasi-distorted in comparison to the pre-braces era) is the product of incessant jaw movement.  While my middle school friends posted mood updates on MySpace to announce that their braces were off (with a new default picture to prove it), I sulked in front of the computer and swallowed an Advil to help ease the pain of my newly tightened wires.  By the time high school rolled around, I wasn’t convinced that I even had pearly whites anymore.

It is something akin to a tragedy that I have been denied my teeth for so long.  I’ve been left no choice but to develop a tolerant attitude towards having braces, an attitude similar to the stoicism implicit in Vonnegut’s mantra “So it goes.”  Just as Billy Pilgrim could not control the fact that he witnessed the Dresden bombing, I cannot control the fact that my teeth seem to move at the pace of an incapacitated snail.  I have found it advantageous to simply accept my fate and move on, as this mentality helps erase negativity from my life.  My immunity to the frustration of taking yet another brace-faced yearbook picture has gotten me through Senior portraits without a complaint; my immunity to feeling self-conscious about my appearance has worked wonders for my confidence.  We are all afflicted by misfortune our lifetimes, but what truly matters is how we deal with it.  Vonnegut’s three-word refrain epitomizes the way in which I cope with my own personal predicament.

I swerve my Acura MDX into the parking lot of the orthodontics center and maneuver my vehicle into the nearest vacant spot.  Accustomed to the routine, my seventeen-year old body hops out of the car and starts off towards the sliding glass doors.  Upon entering the office, the receptionist greets me by name, my file already in hand.  She knew I was coming today.  Before I can decide between People magazine or US Weekly, the orthodontist calls me in for my customary check-up.  He pokes a couple of fancy tools into my mouth, measures my bite, twists around the wires, and changes my colors to lilac purple.  “Your braces should be off soon.”  So it goes.

*Title of post: “Gold in the Air of Summer” by Kings of Convenience

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