Original posting for MarkSpectorWrites.Com
I am sucked into the vortex of a parallel universe where my favorite steakhouse is more excruciating than inviting, the menu more threatening than scintillating.
The star of the menu is a 26 oz. rib eye. Generally as tender as butter, tonight it is still is, assuming the butter’s been dipped in -231º Fahrenheit liquid nitrogen.
My eyes wander to the bread on the table. Its freshness is obscene and the dipping oil by its side is a murky filth of herbs and spices. There are steaks, charbroiling to a putrid perfection and when the kitchen door opens, that “mouth-watering” fragrance hits me with a cringe-inducing stench.
I’m suffering from a somewhat rare complication to routine dental work called Trismus, better known as lockjaw. To part my teeth the width of a pencil is painful. My pinky, excruciating. My thumb, physically impossible.
As you can imagine I can’t eat anything that’s tough and chewy, like cottage cheese or overcooked noodles. I don’t mind that soup has been the mainstay of my diet for the past few days, but why do those jaw breaking minced broccoli pieces have to be so large?
So what am I doing in a steakhouse if I can’t eat anything here?
Two women became friends in a Facebook group discovered that they had a non-virtual, mutual friend in my wife and I. After months of coordination, the three couples are finally getting together. There’s no postponing.
During the introductions, I can’ help but wonder what was going through their minds as I nodded through the hellos with a crooked off-center smile.
And all I could think as I sat down was how glad I was I didn’t get bored or tired. I would prefer not to introduce people with my facial muscles scrunched around my cheekbones into that “should we call an ambulance?” grimace of yawning with my mouth closed.
Now that we’re seated and I’ve explained myself, I realize that this situation is causing a burning sensation on my butt. I’m told that warm compresses accelerate the healing. I felt ridiculous walking into a restaurant holding a chemical glove warmer up to cheek so I put it into my back pocket.
Now I have a radiating heat up close to the crack in my butt and the excruciating pain that is taking a toll on my self-control. Oh, Master of the Universe, please don’t let me fart.
I look at the menu and consider all sorts of possibilities. Is there a baby store nearby? Would they have one of those grinders that young mothers use to mash up baby food? Can I get back from the store before the meal arrives? How will I look, sitting in a fine restaurant grinding my entrée to a pulp? Do I care? Caramelized ribs, stripped from the bone and ground into a puree. Yum.
Last night, I dreamed about a bagel. I once lost 40 pounds without ever once dreaming about a bagel. I saw it stuffed with cream cheese. Lox. Red onions. Tomatoes. I haven’t been that excited by anything I saw in my sleep since I was 15.
Then I woke up and had a yogurt for breakfast. Every slip of the spoon between my slightly parted teeth produced agony and fear. Paranoia. I can’t get the whole spoonful into my mouth. I’m constantly wiping my beard. What if I don’t get it all? What if an unseen drop lingers below the hairs in my chin? Nothing scares me more than meeting a client, wearing a new men’s fragrance, eau de Chobani?
Forget my beard for a moment, what about my teeth? I still have to brush them. On a trip to Rite-Aid, I find all manner of high-tech toothbrushes. Toothbrushes with special plaque removing heads. Toothbrushes with flexing sides that curve to the contours of the teeth. Sonic toothbrushes that drive streams of water to eliminate plaque between the teeth and along the gum lines.
My new toothbrush has Elmo.
So now it’s time to order. This steak house doesn’t offer mashed potatoes but I can certainly order a baked potato and mash it. Salad is out of the question, but steamed zucchini… maybe I can squeeze some of the softer pieces between my teeth.
And what about those ribs? Or that steak? How thick are they? How small can I cut the pieces? Are they really as tender as I remember? How many mini chews will I be able to tolerate before I have to swallow?
A foodie with lockjaw is like a sex addict with a broken hip. It looks sooooo good but...
I order the French onion soup. No croutons, please.