Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Smile Mourned

Just over two weeks ago I lost my smile. I left it in the road somewhere just off the A27, along the familiar cycle route that I take every day to work between Brighton and Lewes. I suppose I'd always taken the ability to smile and laugh for granted, never realising how much I used or valued it, until suddenly I was flying over the handlebars, hitting the road chin first, in a slow-motion catastrophe moment that will haunt me for the rest of my life. As I lay staring down at my shockingly blood-spattered clothes, spitting bits of my own teeth into my hand, the gravity of the situation started to sink in. I wasn't going to get up, brush myself down and get back on the saddle. I was going to need an ambulance. This was bad. As it turned out, I had fractured my jaw in two places and had damaged or lost several of my previously immaculate pearly whites (not so much as a filling in 32 years). So yes, my smile is literally broken, compromised, lost - at least until my jaw heals and I get my teeth fixed up. But I'm not only talking about the obvious physical damage - about which I am inevitably self-conscious - or even the prohibitively painful act of attempting to raise a grin with a broken jaw. The emotional impact of losing one's dignity in this way is enough to banish the desire to smile for some time. And now that I'm stuck at home convalescing, I have plenty of time to dwell on things, to sit feeling sorry for myself, thinking about everything I'm missing out on, and wondering if I'll ever feel the same again. Everyone keeps telling me it could have been worse, that in a way I'm lucky. The stoical side of me agrees with them. But even so, I can't help missing my old smile. I wish I'd appreciated it more when it was just effortlessly there.