Monday, December 5, 2011

That Time I Dreamed Of Talking Flowers . . .

©2010-2011 Karin Charlotte

Over at the Economic Disconnect, my good buddy GYSC waxes nostalgic about the joys of taking prescribed painkillers, and cautions why it's perhaps not the best time to perform even basic automotive maintenance while under their, er, spell. In the comments section, I mentioned I have my own cautionary tale to tell--which coincidentally also came about from being prescribed painkillers after surviving a sometimes harrowing, though rudimentary, dental procedure.

It was late January, 2007. I was 30 years old and going in for my first major surgical procedure of my life. Fortunately, it was a routine wisdom tooth extraction. Unfortunately, I had opted to get all 4 removed at once! Pretty much since the age of 12 onward I would experience periodic and quite painful gum swelling at the rear of my mouth, just behind the last molars. One time, even, a small space opened up and got infected back there. I needed penicillin that time, and oh how my pee smelled terrible for the next 2 weeks or so!

There was a brief time during and just after college when I had no medical or dental insurance, so I went a few years longer than I should have without regular checkups. But finally, just as I was starting to take all facets of my health more seriously as I entered my 30s, all this negligence caught up to me right quick! In 2006, I learned that some of my wisdom teeth had not come through the gumline completely, and that in fact one of them was actually impacted. A visit to the oral surgeon confirmed that I would need to have all my wisdom teeth removed at some point, and preferably sooner rather than later.

I agreed to the sooner option, and all at once. I hate when jobs are left incomplete, don't you? It's a pet peeve of mine. So I insisted on this. I also insisted that I not be put under, since this is a rule I live by until it becomes absolutely impossible to maintain. If there is an option, in other words, I will never agree to be put under. I simply cannot abide the thought of losing that kind of control even for a mere second, if I can help it.

For some reason, the surgeon didn't seem to think this would be a problem. I know some of you might be thinking I'm crazy right about now. But I actually have a VERY high pain threshold. And I figured that, plus the novacaine, would be enough for me.

And you know what? I was right! No shit.

Yes, I know you were expecting a different outcome. One filled with blood, curses, and prodigious amounts of screaming, right? Well, sorry to disappoint. The entire procedure, once the surgeon rolled up his sleeves and got to work, only lasted 25 minutes. It would have been faster, in fact, if not for the very last tooth getting caught around a nerve ending. The surgeon had to be more delicate with that situation, obviously, and ended up busting the tooth up into little pieces with a drill first, before gingerly removing each chunk by hand.

The entire time I barely felt a thing. I could feel the tug at my jaw as he wrenched each tooth out with those huge pliers, and the crunching sound that ensued was pretty awesome to my ears as well. But, honestly, I felt not even one moment of piecing pain. To this day, I have no idea what people go on about when they talk about the horror of getting wisdom teeth removed. Especially since so many opt to be put under and wouldn't remember the pain anyway. Go figure on that one.

Anyway, after all was said and done, I was given the drill (not literally) on how to keep rinsing out my mouth at home with slightly salted water, flushing the empty sockets out with this water pic type device, and taking my percocet pills on a regular schedule.

At first I didn't think I would even need the pills. The local hadn't worn off yet and, except for the huge wad of gauze inside my mouth, I felt perfectly fine.

And then I came home, and the anesthetic wore off!

Yeah, I felt true pain then. Enough for me to run for the pills. And oh how it hit me, that blasted percocet! At first I felt nothing. Then gradually over the course of a few minutes the pain began to subside. Pretty soon I was feeling fine. A little too fine, perhaps. Then I got sleepy, so I took a nap.

What happened next is too graphic and surreal for me to adequately describe here. My head was spinning, first off. And somehow that had me spiraling down, Alice In Wonderland-style, through the looking glass of a demented Tim Burton-esque experience. I was floating high, I was floating low. Angry colors assaulted me as if they were real, breathing people, and then the happy colors came and chased them away. I heard voices far and near, echoing as if through canyons.

And then the talking flowers showed up. They had a lot to tell me, the petaled folk. I can't say I remember exactly how the conversation went, but I know it was fairly deep. I was being told secrets of the universe I really should have tried harder to retain.

Anyway, next thing I knew I was waking up three hours later from what was supposed to only be a thirty-minute nap. The fuck?

But the last vestiges of that crazy dream was still there, floating around on a euphoric, rainbow-hued cloud in the back of my head. Quickly, before it all vanished, I ran to my PC and started cranking out the hasty outlines of a brand new short story. The concept was bizarre and unlike anything I had conceived up to that point, but already the effects of the drug-fueled dream were fading fast. I managed to get all the important bits down, and then I took another nap.

It wasn't long after that I switched from percocet to maximum strength Tylenol instead. Yes, it meant that I would have to deal with a little more pain . . . but at least my head stayed clear and free of talking plant matter. Honestly, the freaky dreams were cool in that they provided me with great writing material. But the vertigo and spinning rooms I could do without. I really don't know how people get addicted to this stuff, because it quite frankly scared the shit out me.

Anyway, once I could think clearly I sat down and started to type out the story proper. It turned into a pretty long story, in fact, and was very bizarre. Several critiques and revisions later, I had a final draft that I tried to shop around. It got rejected to hell and back again, and eventually I trunked the behemoth.

But this is what blogs are for: to dredge up old ghosts of stories past. If you would like to read the story that resulted from my brief brush with Rock 'n' Roll fun, click here to get to it. Alternatively, you can also find the story, titled "Ascending the Sending Road," by checking out my Unpublished Short Stories sidebar on the upper right-side portion of this blog.

Give it a read if you feel like it, and then come back here and leave comments. But don't feel obligated to. It's a lengthy read at over 30 pages long, so I'll understand if you take a pass.

And also, remember . . . DON'T DO DRUGS!!!



    You know what I've learned about myself over the years? I think the reason I don't drink very much or do drugs or take painkillers is because I don't like the loss of control. And I'd rather feel everything - good and bad - than feel nothing.

    I have wondered, though, just because I'm naturally curious, what it would be like to write high. I know a few writers who do. Not that I'll ever find out.

  2. I can't believe you had all four at the same time pulled out! Whoa! You're a braver soul than I am! But then, I'm a girl. :) That dream you had is totally Alice in Wonderland-esque! I can't say I've had that same type of reaction to pain killers though. My reaction has consisted of upset stomachs and/or breaking out in hives! Can't say I'd like to experience what you went through. I think I'll pass.

  3. I haven't had a look at the story yet, but the big question is: did it all still make sense once you could think clearly again?

  4. Jen -- I know Stephen King wrote some of his earlier, most famous works while high and/or drunk. Not surprising, that, huh? And also scary. Makes you almost think it would be worth it if it meant having King's level of success. Almost . . . ;)

    Yvonne -- I guess we're all big babies when it comes to taking drugs, then. This makes me feel good about the world, not surprisingly. And also, that some very cool chicks read my blog. :)

    Ian -- I think it helps that I don't focus on the specific details of the dreams I have, but rather the emotions behind them. While I did keep the funky colors and talking plants in the story, what was most important was the theme of righting past wrongs and giving thanks to one's neighbors. Especially when said neighbors are natives to the land you're trying to live on and who have helped your people to survive for a long time. Hmmm, now that I think of it . . . I could repackage this as a much tighter Thanksgiving-themed sci-fi short for next year! You don't really see many of those around the season.

  5. Great story!! Glad I inspired you. All 4 of mine went too, but I did go with the lights out option. Pain killers are so very dangerous, your story is scarier than mine on a few levels.

  6. I don't know, man. Almost losing a finger trumps talking bouquets any day in my book. :)

  7. I remember this story! I remember liking it very much. A rewrite for the next thanking season seems cool. Had all my drug fueled dreams and nightmares when I was still a kid so that doesn't happen to me anymore. But I don't really take anything either. Last time I took drugs I think it was percs when I had my car accident in '04 and broke my clavicle. Just sent the pain away and dreams of nothingness. I do enjoy a good drunk every now and then though. Maybe not so much now that I'm older. ;-) Great post!

  8. I'll have to pop back this weekend to read it. I'm a little behind on everything - having been away for a few days.

    I had a strange dream while I was in San Fran. Maybe it was the Bonine talking to me ;) My husband woke me up and said I was talking like an alien. ... ?

    Weird - I know.

  9. T -- Yeah, you're the one that made me re-evaluate that story because you said you had liked it so much. I think you said it was one of your favorite ones. So that made me give it a re-think. :)

    Kim -- Oh, how cool! Talking like an alien? Haha, I can only imagine what that sounded like. And lucky you for being in San Fran. I so want to see that city one of these days . . .


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