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They asked about my habits and I played it cool.

“I’ve been pretty good.”

The hygienist made her doubt known, brandishing her instruments.

I relaxed my whole skull. I had the self-confidence of a model patient.

“What have you done?”

After last time, I’d resolved to invert my tactics. I flossed after every meal, between every bite; I threaded my gums whenever my hands were free. Some days I slept less than I cleaned my mouth.

I got up, ready to leave.

“Please, just let him look,” she pleaded, and called in the dentist.

I opened my mouth to him without sitting back down.

“God, you’ve actually done it. Would you mind if I kissed you?”

Swelling with pride, I agreed. I couldn’t differentiate the flittings of his tongue from my own. Never before had I felt so appreciated.

The hygienist beamed at us, unembarrassed.