She had a toothache.
There was no way around it, the tooth just below her right eye was throbbing, sending thick waves of pain through the bridge of her nose. Just thinking about eating lunch made her stomach curl. She had to do something.
The thought of telling her mother crossed her mind, but was instantly dismissed. Not even getting this pain to stop was worth that…she could hear it now… “What? You haven’t been brushing your teeth, have you? I know you, this is just another attention-getting device, isn’t it? Where the hell do you think I’m going to get the money to pay for a dentist? Money doesn’t grow on trees, you know, and I’m not made out of it, either! Goddamned spoiled brat, just ‘gimme, gimme, gimme’ all the time!”
She bent to the water fountain to take a drink, but the cold water striking the tooth brought tears to her eyes. She had to do something, and soon, or she’d be crying without the impetus of the icy water on a bare nerve…and then there would be hell to pay for sure. She pondered going to the school nurse…a last resort, surely, because if Miss Connie slipped up and called her mother again, she’d be in for another horrifying week like the one she endured when the school called and told her mother to get her some glasses or else she would be turned in to the authorities for child neglect. The nearest appointment with the optometrist was a week out, and that had been one of worst weeks of her entire life. The screaming, the tantrums, the carrying on, the threats…in a week’s time she had gone from wishing she didn’t need glasses---what 12 year old girl wants them, after all?---to praying that she not only needed them, but that her prescription was stronger than her mother’s, so there would be no room for lingering accusations of malingering and attention-seeking. Her prayer had been answered, but only after enduring a terrifying ride to the clinic in which she was told she was about to be “found out,” that the doctors…unlike that gullible, bleeding-heart school nurse…could tell when you were faking, and when the eye test was over and she was revealed for the fraud she was, she was going to pay like she had never paid before. Maybe telling Miss Connie wasn’t the best idea, after all.
Her best friend came upon her leaning disconsolately against her locker, her right hand plastered tightly against her cheek. It took an exchange of fewer than ten words, and the next thing she knew, she was being propelled forcefully down the ancient, musty smelling hallway into the antiseptic-scented lair of Miss Connie, RN. She had known Miss Connie since she was five years old and she had administered the required booster shots for her to enter school…and had treated her feverish little body when it turned out she was allergic to at least one component of the shot. Miss Connie had comforted her when she fell from the jungle gym and split her chin open, necessitating stitches…and Miss Connie had defended her from her mother’s wrath “She’s not stupid or wilful,” she had responded to her mother’s furious accusation. “She’s six and these things just sometimes happen. It’s part of being a kid.”
“Toothache,” her best friend said, pointing out the obviously reluctant patient. “Thank you,” Miss Connie said to her friend, her tone of voice dismissing her. “Sit down, dear,” she said solicitously. “Open up and let me take a look.”
“You can’t tell my mother,” she muttered. “I got in lots of trouble over the glasses, Miss Connie. You can’t tell my mother about this. Just give me something to make the pain go away and I’ll be fine.”
“Mmmm,” Miss Connie said, peering inside her mouth, tongue depressor and little light in hand. “Mmmmm.” She put the instruments in her lap and sat back. “When was the last time you went to the dentist?” she asked.
“Uh…I dunno…I don’t think I’ve ever been…”
“How old are you now, dear?”
“Um…fourteen. And a half.”
“Fourteen and you’ve never been to a dentist?”
She shook her head “no.” And she didn’t want to go, either, to judge from her mother’s experiences. Teeth cleaning had to be the closest experience to torture allowable in this country! Not that cleaning them ever did any good…her mother’s teeth were still yellowed and stained with nicotine, even after a harrowing afternoon with the hygienist. All that pain and no visible improvement? No thanks!
Miss Connie was looking thoughtful. “You need fillings, dear. At least four of them.” She could feel her eyes widen with horror. Fillings! That meant injections in her mouth! She shook her head “no.” She would rather die that have a needle in her mouth! She shook her head again.
“You can’t tell my mother, Miss Connie. She’ll kill me for just coming here and if she has to pay for a dentist…she can’t afford to pay for a dentist.” She was speaking in a rush, her words tumbling over each other almost incoherently. “Please, please, don’t say anything to my mother…can’t you just give me something to make it better for a while?” she finished abruptly, unaware that her hands were so tightly clasped that her fingers were bloodless.
Miss Connie turned on her little swivel stool and opened one of the narrow glass-fronted cabinets that lined the wall of her consulting room. A strong spicy odour escaped as the door swung away, perfuming the room with its heady scent. Removing a small, dark brown glass bottle, a tiny vial, and a pair of long curved tweezers, she closed the cabinet door, leaving the fragrance lingering in the air. “This will only help for a little while,” Miss Connie warned her, extracting a tiny cotton pellet from the vial with the tweezers and dipping it into the dark bottle, the source of the pungent scent. “Open up,” she said and packed the little cotton bit, purple with the overpowering oil, into the cavity of the tooth.
“Yow!” she flinched. “Augh!” But the shock of initial contact quickly wore away, and a pleasant warmth began to soothe away the pain. Oil of Cloves the label on the little bottle read. “Better,” she said, tapping her cheek gently. “You won’t tell my mother, will you?”
Miss Connie shook her head. “But the pain will be back. Let me call the County. They have programs where you can get that taken care of for free. It won’t cost your mother anything…let me at least look into it for you…”
* * *
Miss Connie was right. The relief was only temporary. Mother would be home soon and she had the house tidied up, but she couldn’t concentrate on her homework for the throbbing under her eye. She heard the car door slam, uncharacteristically loud, she thought, but then the pain seemed to magnify everything. She swept her hair back from her face, put her sore cheek in her hand, and tried again to concentrate on the textbook in her lap. The front door slammed open and she was instantly afraid. Something was wrong. Really wrong.
“Where are you, you lying little bitch?”
Her stomach knotted and she felt suddenly cold all over. “I’m in the kitchen,” she called out. “What’s wrong?” She rose from the cot lest she be dragged to a standing position by her hair. She knew what she needed to do, and composed her face accordingly.
“What’s wrong?” came the mocking sing-song from the other side of the curtain just before it was swept open. “What’s wrong?” her mother roared. “How about you tell me how the County got the idea that I’m too poor to pay for my daughter to visit the dentist? Then we’ll know what’s wrong!”
Her hand had unconsciously crept up to cover the throbbing spot in her upper jaw, probably not the best action to take at that precise moment, as her mother grabbed her wrist in an iron squeeze and dragged it away. “Open up!” she commanded. “Open up, I said, and let me see this gaping hole that sent you whining to that busybody school nurse.” Reluctantly, she opened her mouth, her tongue involuntarily touching the throbbing spot. “Move your goddamned tongue so I can see!” her mother commanded and, after a moment, flung her wrist and numbed hand away.
“I do not know what to do with you,” her mother complained through gritted teeth, her eyes rolling skyward. “You have absolutely no sense at all. Why didn’t you just tell me you had a toothache so I could send you to the dentist? Why involve that big mouth nurse who had to go call the County? Now, thanks to you, Miss Troublemaker, a social worker is going to be here next week to check things out. If you dare put one foot wrong, you will rue the day you were born, do you understand me?” That last, spoken in a barely audible hiss, was more frightening than then the roaring bombast that has accompanied her mother’s entrance. Standing stock still, feeling like the mouse caught in a snake’s mesmerizing gaze, she nodded slowly. Yes, she understood. She understood very, very well.
It is difficult to deal with a narcissist when you are a grown, independent, fully functioning adult. The children of narcissists have an especially difficult burden, for they lack the knowledge, power, and resources to deal with their narcissistic parents without becoming their victims. Whether cast into the role of Scapegoat or Golden Child, the Narcissist's Child never truly receives that to which all children are entitled: a parent's unconditional love. Start by reading the 46 memories--it all began there.