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“The mask was like a toxic flower, and with my nose pushed deep into its dull, gray-colored petals, I was being forced to inhale its dangerous scent. The anesthesiologist stared down at me as the flower-venom disintegrated in my mouth…I would never be able to snorkel or dive without thinking of that mask. Having plastic in my mouth or over my nose always makes me feel as if I am about to inhale a substance that will put me to sleep and when I wake up, part of my body might be missing, gone forever.”

Poster Child by Emily Rapp

The mask was like the trunk of an elephant, the pink rubber end covering my nose as the nitrous oxide flowed up through the connecting white plastic tube hooked up to the metal canister nearby. I was an elephant, taking endless gulps from some strange enchanted pond, its sweet water making me feel drowsy and disconnected from my small, weak body. Try as I might to resist, my trunk continued to drink, filling my nose with a horrible sickly-sweet scent that I would forever associate with memories of pain, confusion, and overwhelming fear. To this day, I cannot step foot into a dentist’s office without thinking of that horrid saccharine smell, the garish pink rubber mask, and the whirring of razor-edged electrical tools. Catching the scent of anything overly sweet always makes my stomach turn as I recall the feeling of lying helplessly in that enormous leather reclining chair, the glare of the hot overhead lights and the eyes of strange men and women bearing down on me as they prepared to take away what I did not need and most certainly would not miss–gone forever by lunchtime.

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