Paul awoke groggily in the shabby, beige hotel room and for far too long remained in the nightmare he had been suffering. He was still trapped in Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia as it crumbled around him. Andrew looked on, dressed as a Cardinal, smiling devilishly, delighting in the masonry falling freely onto his parishioner. It was all terribly Catholic.
Paul decided immediately to read no more Dan Brown!
Although the author’s novels were admittedly page turning, their ideas could be head spinning when it came to getting any kip. Light reading perhaps, but it made for heavy dreaming. He shook his head, attempting to clear the Gaudiesque grotesque brilliance from his brain.
He sat up on the edge of the bed and crossed himself.
He wasn’t even religious.
It had been a strange trip.
He crossed the room to grab the iPad, knowing that some ‘Fox News’ would be sure to provide him with some comic relief, ameliorating his nocturnal musings. Andrew, he was relieved to notice, was not in Scarlett after all, but crumpled among off-white bed linen in the corner of the room. There was, however, still a touch of claret about him, it being the blood splattered pillow, doubtless caused by his tooth being ripped out the previous evening. Paul decided not to wake his partner leaving him to bleed in peace – due to his missing piece.
He attempted to connect to the internet, already feeling more cheery, guessing at what more banal nonsense Mr Trump had dreamt up overnight. He was sure the idiocy of the American President would give him a chuckle. Either that or throw him into a nightmare of the waking kind.
He knew it was a risk.
He watched as the device attempted to sign onto the hotel’s WiFi system. The tiny cart-wheel at the top right of the screen span manically, but to no avail – the room was offline.
Not for the first time.
The internet had been most intermittent since their arrival in Ranong a week ago. He and Andrew had been planning to just overnight in the scruffy city, then head to a tropical island. Tropical Storm Pabuk had blown those plans way off course as there were no boats sailing anywhere. There was nothing for it but to hunker down until the cyclone passed. Fortunately by the time it reached them it was nothing more than a depression, matching the mood of the meteorological captives in room 4010.
Ranong was a typical border town – Myanmar lurking ominously just across the water. But Paul and Andrew rather enjoyed living on the edge, so her amiable seediness had naturally won them over. They had rarely been to anywhere in the Far East where the people went so far to be friendly.
The food was good.
The atmosphere authentic.
And there was hardly a foreigner in sight, apart from the two middle aged homosexuals strutting through town, one with hair which was yellowing under the equatorial sun. Paul knew he should have packed toner, but his hairdresser Javier had advised him it was too complex a job for him to manage. Paul had wondered at the time how hard it could be to whack a bit of paste onto one’s barnet but bowed to his coiffeur’s greater knowledge on the subject. He was now quite jaundiced about the whole situation.
The spinning icon on the iPad was still doing it’s work, as of yet, there was still no internet. Paul headed instead for the lavatory- the embers of the previous evening’s coal fired barbecue beginning to fire up dangerously once again. He hoped it wouldn’t be another incendiary day, for finally, they were to catch a ferry to somewhere beachlike. After all the drama he could do with a dip in the ocean.
Baptise himself in saline with his new found Catholic leanings!
He longed for a drama -free day. He hit the light switch to the bathroom and nothing. All at once the situation was illuminated. There was a power cut. That was why the poor iPad was trying so hard to connect to something that wasn’t there. All of the power in the entire hotel was out.
The sun was up and the room was heating up fast. He knew with room 4010, being in direct sunlight, that in half an hour, he and Andrew would be sweating like a couple of glassblower’s arses. He reached into the fridge and contemplated the remaining ‘Singha’ beer staring at him with vicious intent. But thought better if it. It was 7.30am and even he wasn’t that desperate. Besides, he knew that Andrew probably would be on waking toothless.
He’d need something to plug the gap.
Paul opted for a lukewarm soda water instead and sat down to read.
The previous day he had also been reading when he heard an excruciating yell from the then lit bathroom. Andrew’s nerve had finally failed him. The tooth with which he had been battling with for the entire trip had just won. The war was over, Andrew could do nothing but surrender. He was in utter agony, uttering expletives by the mouthful.
‘Fuck! Fuck! Bastard! Fuck’ he went, as if his foul mouth would cure his sick one.
‘We need a dentist now!’ Paul suggested gingerly.
‘Fuck off. Don’t fucking talk to me!’ Andrew screamed.
He was definitely suffering badly.
Paul knew his partner was usually quite good at coping with pain, sometimes even enjoying it somewhat. But this was an altogether different scenario. Toothache, he considered, the worst of all ailments, especially whilst marooned in a one-tooth town.
Paul consulted the internet, which thankfully happened to be working that morning, and found a dental clinic which looked a little less Victorian than most of the others. He screenshot the information and headed for reception to make the arrangements. The girl on the desk, although terribly sweet, spoke about eight words of English, and even the electronic map Paul thrust towards her failed to produce a spark.
She had no idea what he was on about.
That was until an incandescent Andrew appeared and did a mime worthy of Marcel Marceau being tortured by ‘Olivier’ – a la ‘The Marathon Man’!
His Hoffmanesque acting skills swiftly paid off and the poor frightened girl tapped the dentist’s phone number rapidly into her cellphone. There was an agonising wait, as both Paul and Andrew could hear the unanswered ring tone coming fruitlessly from the receiver. Eventually the timid creature who had tried to connect them gave up. She looked towards Andrew fearfully as his face grew redder and just – grew!
‘Wait moment’ she said, slightly panicked now.
She then made what seemed like four phone calls using five phones and proceeded to scribble something onto a piece of paper.
‘For fun clinic’ she said. ‘You can walk.’
Paul knew the visit wouldn’t be for fun, as he rarely liked to see his husband in such an uncomfortable situation. There were times perhaps, but this wasn’t one of them.
‘Come on’ he commanded, ‘let’s go now.’
The patient whose patience was wearing as thin as a piece of dental floss could only follow. The boys marched through the searing heat, dodging chickens and cavities as they went and eventually came to the place listed on the scrap of paper they’d been given. Rusty, grey shutters barred their entry – the establishment was obviously closed.
Andrew looked most forlorn. And swollen. Paul was secretly pleased – the place looked like something out of ‘Little Shop Of Horrors’, the first show he’d ever appeared in professionally. Ironically as Orin, the sadistic dentist. He thought it better not to remind Andrew of his critically acclaimed performance at that moment, for fear of another critical performance from his partner.
The day was decaying by the minute.
‘Let’s go back to reception’ Paul said quickly, he was thinking on his heels,’ ‘I’m sure the one that I found is better than this, and it’ll probably open at ten’.
He was clutching at toothpicks he knew, he wasn’t sure of anything in Ranong. Who could be?
Back at reception, after another sweaty and painful perambulation, Paul insisted the receptionist look for another clinic, or direct them to the hospital. She tried the hospital first, then informed them that it was full that day but tomorrow they could be seen. Charming Paul thought. Andrew sighed audibly, the wind whistling through his decayed crown tarnishing it further as he exhaled. Then, out of nowhere, the young woman produced another piece of parchment with yet another name, this time in Thai.
‘This good clinic. Open, five 0’clock!’
The boys looked at each other glumly, they had a ferry booked and paid for to head across the Andaman Sea. It left at 2’0’ clock!
‘You Go’, Andrew said magnanimously, even though he would never have been able to pronounce that word. He now looked like he had a mouth of Willie Wonker gobstoppers stuffed into his right cheek.
‘I can go at five and then meet you tomorrow’.
‘No babe I’m not leaving you like this’, Paul answered through gritted teeth. He was more than ready for some sand. But there was absolutely no way he could leave his partner in agony – stranded in a no-horse town. There was no option but to re-arrange the boat and stay yet another night in Ranong. They’d done it six times before, so once more wouldn’t hurt.
Well not as much as Andrew’s gob.
At exactly five to five, after a day of liquid anaesthesia, they raced east across town to sort out Andrew’s ‘North And South. On entering the clinic Paul felt a rush of trepidation. Again there was no English spoken and the wallpaper was screaming as loudly as some of the patients! The clinical staff, however, were gorgeous. Affable and more than ready to help the swelling ‘farang’ who now looked like a homemade incendiary device.
Paul accompanied Andrew into the surgery and the young dentist began to prod and poke.
Paul had never spectated at the dentist before and he found it macabrely fascinating. He began having a Princess Diana fantasy, remembering her famously sitting in on operations.
All he needed was the mask.
There was shriek from the chair. Bingo – the clever lady had found the scene of the crime! Now all she had to do was pick up the murder weapon.
Paul sat on a bench as a loud Thai quiz show screeched from a television in the corner. It was putting his teeth on edge, he couldn’t imagine how Andrew was feeling. But as he watched his partner recline uneasily in the chair and noticed his toes curl northwards he had a fair idea.
Bucketloads of anaesthetic was injected and Andrew visibly began to relax – just a touch.
‘You tell me if you feel my pleasure’, the dentist requested.
‘What’ Andrew garbled.
‘Tell her if you feel any pressure’, Paul shouted, attempting to outdo the excited toothsome presenter on the tv for volume.
The dentist turned to him and thanked him for his oral skills. As she did Paul made a motion with his hands. T’was the universal sign for ‘just yank it out love!’ Behind their masks the dentist and her assistant giggled charmingly and then turned back to their patient.
A few minutes later Paul was fascinated to see that she did just that. It was hardly technical, looking a lot to him like the rudimentary metalwork at which he’d never excelled at secondary school.
First she plied her trade with a heavy pair of pliers, giggling once again as half of Andrew’s tooth came away. She shared a comment with her assistant who also seemed most amused. The nurse then passed her boss what looked to Paul like a Philips screwdriver. Then for several minutes Paul watched with twisted fascination as the dentist screwed away with abandon. Once her task was complete she reached again for the pliers. She then launched them this way, then that, this way again, then that! Paul was tempted to look away towards the screaming television set but was morbidly transfixed by the mouth job he was observing!
And then. All not at once. Out the little bastard came.
In two pieces – root and all.
She stuffed some gauze into Andrew’s cavernous gap and then warned him of a wisdom tooth she’d seen in the x-ray, explaining it would cause him future problems.
‘But he has no wisdom’ Paul interjected.
They all fell about in hysterics at the hackneyed gag. Andrew, no doubt, with relief.
On their way out of the clinic a young French girl sat looking terrified in the waiting area.
‘Was it ok?’ she asked nervously.
‘Perfect’, Paul replied confidently, having undertaken no treatment himself.
‘Look’ he said, producing a small plastic bag containing Andrews rotten old tooth and the blood splattered root.
The girl looked horrified and went the colour of an anaemic frog.
‘But I need my crown refitted’ she spat, ‘I was told it was good here.’
Paul had obviously given her the impression she would have to surrender some of her dentalware. There was a xenophobic French joke to be made there but he resisted.
‘It’s so much better when you get inside the surgery,’ he lied, gesticulating to the hideous wallpaper and feeling guilty he’d produced Andrew’s bloody fang.
‘Truly?’ She asked. Looking un peu relieved.
‘Vraiment’, replied Paul , mendaciously. He knew he’d been cruel enough.
And he wasn’t about to mention the fact that Andrew had just told him that the dentist had plumped for the wrong tooth at first and that he’d had to direct her to the offending part of his ‘Hampstead Heath’!
The girl smiled.
‘I am so glad to see you ‘ere’, she said.
With that they bid adieu, Andrew’s bag of tooth in hand, and made there way towards the liquor store.
Vodka was to be the order of the evening. Paul only hoped that when the numbness wore off, Andrew would be fighting fit and in shipshape condition.
He wanted to get on that bloody boat.
He’d had quite enough of room 4010.
And he didn’t want to wake in the Sagrada Familia once again.
That would be even worse than toothache!
He crossed himself once more.