The Extraction: Photos From The In Between.
Before I moved to Los Angeles I got three wisdom teeth pulled out of my head. We were going for four, but the last one seemed like less of an issue so we let sleeping dogs lie. I was incredibly nervous about the procedure and had quite a few strange dreams and anxious nights previous to the operation. The pain, or the idea of pain, didn’t worry me. It was the idea of being put under for an hour that made me uncomfortable. For some reason, I cannot wrap my mind around the idea of that kind of chemically induced and maintained unconsciousness. Where does my mind go? What is my brain registering from the outside world? Will stimulus I’m unaware of fill some dark part of my memory? To be asleep that deeply and to be woken up after felt like time travel, but not in a cool way.
I brought in my cell phone and a small disposable film camera and wanted to document as much of it as possible. I wasn’t entirely sure what I hoped to capture, possibly the vulnerability, the fear I had, the anxiety around the anesthesia. I wanted that moment that was the in between…the sliver of time separating my from the sleeping world and the waking one. I took a few shots before of the equipment and my nurses, and I tried to send my future self a mental reminder to start taking photos the minute I was conscious. The first shot above is the first photo I took after I was pulled out. The nurses told me that while they were giving me the drugs I wouldn’t stop taking photos and they had to wrestle the camera away from me so I’d stop. I have no recollection of that, but it sounds like me. And that’s precisely why it makes me so uncomfortable–I have zero memory of two people taking away my cameras, or me taking the pictures as I was falling in and out of consciousness. Where was my mind, at that point? Am I the only one who is made anxious by this idea?
I was walked to the door before I remembered that they still had my teeth. I vaguely remember telling the nurse that “I came with these teeth, I’m leaving with these teeth.” She didn’t argue.
I had a professor tell us to make self portraits when we felt like we looked the worst. He said he’d set his camera up by the bed and have it ready in the morning so all he’d have to do is grab his remote to make a photograph. While I don’t think I’d necessarily describe these as self portraits, there is a distinct feeling of being unguarded, which I most certainly always am when placed in front of a camera.
It’s been months since I had this done and I haven’t had any complications, although I am allergic to a lot of pain pills, so my recovery was a little tense. Otherwise, no worse for the wear. Email me if you want a tooth. I’m kidding! Or am I?