Filling in Time
by Lynn-Marie Harper

Miss Harper I don’t think you’re quite cut out for this line of work. And with that I was free.  A statement of  discontent  from the boss, the dentist whose practice on Manchester Road I didn’t work in or at for very long. A week at least, a month at most. Each time I walked up the long drive beside the field of a garden my heart sank as I walked into the claustrophobia of the surgery. Had  I been a receptionist I might have lasted the rest of that summer between leaving school and visiting the coast of Cornwall and art college — but no, I was a dental assistant in one of many sorties into new experience that I called work.

As a dental assistant I  cleaned and handled the dentist’s implements, and was present whilst the young, very old, and nervous beyond belief were administered gas that appeared to take away  consciousness and this was the factor that kickstarted the lifelong squeamishness at which near fainting in some kind of empathic commiseration took hold, took place, and took a buckling of the knees and head drained of blood to to impact me the dentist and the patient.

I wouldn’t say I celebrated upon hearing those words but I don’t think I looked back as I walked towards the heavy traffic that Friday night and  looked up at the rolling green moors overladen with rolling grey clouds. Neither did I wonder what I was cut out for as I left the dark brown cramped interior behind, the smell of which has long lingered and which reemerges whenever I have entered a dentist surgery or on other medical occasions when black rubber and that particular gas coalesce.

PHOTO: The author, around the time she worked as a dental assistant.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lynn-Marie Harper lives in and loves London, She trained in and taught dance for a living years after the art college mentioned in the piece, and has worked in many jobs, mostly with people — this one making a lasting impression and libraries being fertile creative ground. She reads to patients in hospice and out and writes poetry mainly, having had pieces published online and in anthologies.