Another one is teeth. These are the worst. Lots of people have these nightmares. And if you’re one of those many, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. You’re in the middle of a conversation. At a dinner party, say. A lone tooth falls out, clinks to the bottom of your wine glass. Or onto your plate. The room goes quiet. “That’s strange,” you think, or say. Even though you know what it means. You know what’s coming. Another falls loose. Then another. You clap your hand over your mouth to stop it, but you feel your gums release their hold entirely, your tongue drowning in jagged bits of bodily ceramic.
Other times it’s more slow and subtle. Pain even as you bite into something soft, like a donut. A singular molar that starts to wiggle for seemingly no reason. And you just can’t stop tonguing it, working it loose in an obsessive, hypnotic fashion until it finally loses purchase. Then its neighbors start to join the eviction on their own volition.
Worst still is the quicker version. The great disintegration. You’re doing something weird, random, in some semi-familiar place. In other words, a typical mishmash of a dream. In the midst of something totally unrelated, your teeth rub together or even just brush against your tongue or cheek as you talk. Pieces of them fall loose. Not the whole tooth, just sharp little bits. Your teeth are crumbling in your mouth. Like chalk. Maybe you cough, and a puff of chunky white dust flies out like you tried to whistle while eating crackers. But it doesn’t stop there. Oh no. You feel your gums wither and dry, peel back. Your lips chap and crack. Your throat dries out. Your eyes sink back.
You’re falling apart. The life of a fruit fly. Birth, aging, death, dust in short order. Your body implodes painfully inward, down into the chalky maw that started it all. And that’s it.
This dream and its variations have intrigued and terrified me for years. I’ve read that it’s a vanity thing, related to anxiety about our appearance or aging. In other interpretations it’s a sexuality thing, dealing with worries about performance or even impotence. The Greek view is that it’s premonitory — someone you’re close to will fall ill imminently, or die. Some Asian interpretations think it linked to the sins of the spoken word — if you’re a liar, your teeth will fall out.
I neither know nor care what it all means. Frankly, I think it just indicates that I don’t want my teeth turning to powder while I’m enjoying a cocktail. But I do pause before biting into a caramel. Every time.