Last Tuesday night Claire was getting ready to return to England when I declared to her one of two problems I had, thinking that maybe I shouldn’t overburden her with worry before her flight back.

“I think I am getting a cold”, I said. “Don’t come near me then, I don’t want your stinking cold, thank you very much!”

Maybe I should have mentioned the other problem instead but it was too late. We spent the following morning together just pottering around the apartment and on at least a couple of occasions, when I came close to her, I was warned not to give her my cold. When did people stop showing sympathy towards one another? Just because I say things like: ‘I hate sympathy when I am ill, just leave me alone’, it doesn’t mean I should be left alone without sympathy! Anyway, both the cold and my second problem, the toothache, were developing nicely. Around midday, we loaded the car with Claire’s suitcase and drove to Larnaca Airport, we hugged and she complained again that I was determined to give her my cold. You would think she was an opera singer or something.

I drove straight to the office and had a couple of meetings and on each occasion, I warned the attendees of my first problem and that they should keep their distance from me; they did with little or no sympathy. I drove home and the sore throat was getting worse but the toothache was easily winning the torture stakes. I watched TV, exchanged messages and went to bed. Woke up at 1:30 made a hot lemon and honey drink and sat up in bed feeling extremely sorry for myself. The hot drink was soothing the sore throat but aggravating the toothache. I tried to drink from one side of my mouth to avoid hot drink on the painful side but that only resulted in spillage on my chest and the pillows. I finally managed to drift off at around 5:30 and woke up at around 5:33. Got up, shaved, showered and tried to eat something but that was not too successful. Eventually, I went to work and waited for staff to arrive.

More meetings, more talk, and more explanation that my cold was not better. No one mentioned the tooth because I kept that one quiet. Finally, I cracked and declared that my toothache was my priority because the pain was now intolerable.

Nicoletta was kind enough to find me some Solpadine and around 11:00 am I asked her to call my dentist Dr. Pashia to see if he can fit me in as an emergency case anytime in the next five minutes. She called and returned with the tragic news that he could not fit me in that day and the earliest would be the following day Friday at noon. I wished I were dead! I struggled for a couple of hours more and went home for some rest. I stopped on the way and bought more Solpadine.

That Thursday afternoon and evening were truly awful. I had more Solpadine, which did not help. Every time I closed my jaws together I jumped with pain. I could not bear to put any pressure at all on that tooth. Eating was a waste of time while drinking cold stuff was ok for the tooth but not for the throat and hot drink had the opposite effect. I slept fitfully for batches of 15 to 20 minutes and started counting the hours until 12:00 for my appointment at the dentist. I forgot all about the sore throat and the cold and all my senses were now focused on the very unpleasant pain in my tooth at the back of my mouth on the left. At one point I sneezed and somehow managed to clamp my mouth shut so hard I thought I was going to die with the agony I experienced. I do not believe I felt as much pain since I had that biopsy a couple of years ago.

At 11:15 I had a call from the dentist and I braced myself for cancellation. Luckily it was not a cancellation but in fact a bring-forward to 11:45. I gathered my things and ran to the car. I arrived at 11:35 and the receptionist smiled at me and for the first time since the start of my ordeal someone showed some sympathy by asking what was wrong with me. One of the nurses came over and she too expressed sympathy, then Dr. Pashias emerged also asking what was the matter with me. Finally, the nurse ushered me into one of the examination rooms and invited me to sit in the big chair. By that time, I was feeling faint with pain.

“Open your mouth please”, she said, which I did with difficulty. She was wielding an instrument of hardened steel and put it gently in my mouth, tapped on one tooth and asked if it hurt, I said a little. She pushed the instrument a little further in and went tap-tap with the instrument of torture then asked: ‘does this hurt?’ I could not speak from the pain she inflicted on me, if I could I would have confessed to the murder of every human being since Cain killed his brother Abel. As I said nothing, she decided to make sure by tap-tapping again and this time, I shouted: YESSSS, it does. Satisfied, she left the room and another nurse came in, found another instrument of torture and asked me to open my mouth. I think they do this to amuse themselves, I really do! “Does this hurt?” she unnecessarily asked. I grabbed her wrist and said: “It hurts very, very much”. She left the examination room and a couple of minutes later Dr. Pashias emerged, gloved up and masked, he too found another shiny hardened steel instrument and demanded his own share of mouth opening. I had no choice but to oblige him. “does this hurt?” By that point, I lost the power of speech and all I could say was “uhhhh”.

“It is your wisdom tooth and it is no good, you don’t need it so I think we should take it out.” I agreed immediately. So, he brought his trusty anaesthetic syringe and stabbed me a few times in a number of places in the back of my mouth and said he will be back when my lips go numb. I begged my lips to go numb quickly. He returned a few minutes later and asked how my lips felt and I said “nummm”. He helpfully explained that wisdom teeth often refuse to come out easily and he may have to cut the tooth to pieces before taking the debris out. I braced myself for a long and uncomfortable hour or so of sheer torture, however, the pain had gone by then due to the anaesthetic so, I was in a slightly better frame of mind. He spoke to his assistant in Greek and finally they agreed which instrument he should start with. He came round brandishing a very feeble and small screwdriver-like piece but unlike a normal screwdriver, the head was pointy and not flat. I thought he was going to mark the lines of where he was going to cut the tooth with some high-tech drill so I opened my mouth, closed my eyes and let the world take care of itself while I get hacked about by my friendly dentist.

15 seconds later he said: “we are lucky, no need to cut anything”, he patted me on my right shoulder and began to leave the room. I opened my eyes and there sitting on the tray was the most enormous tooth I had in my mouth that was the source of my agony. I said: “is that it?” He said it was and that all he needed to do was to push the tooth down and then pull it out all in one stroke! I thought: I could have done that at home!

The nurse asked me to rinse and gave me a packet of dressing to stem the flow of blood, urging me to avoid eating for a couple of hours and not drink hot drinks for a while.

It was 12:00 noon precisely when I paid for the treatment and thanked everyone profusely and went home in a state of euphoria as though all my wild dreams had come through. I was still numb of course but I felt no pain, how glorious it was!

It has been two days since the extraction and I have a different kind of pain, the side of my mouth is swollen, and I can open my mouth wide enough to insert nothing thicker than a postage stamp before I feel pain, but a more tolerable kind of pain. I can’t chew much and because of the cold, I can’t taste much either but hey, I am the happiest man in the world!

Not many people will understand the agony I have been through however, I know one person who truly understands because he had to endure what I endured for much longer. My brother Samir had a wisdom tooth issue while in New York last week and could not get an emergency appointment with any dentist there so, he had to wait until he flew back to Jordan on Friday night / Saturday morning. I don’t know how he managed it, I really don’t! He too is now at home recovering from his experience and enjoying lots of ice cream, which I think is an excuse on his part to over-indulge.