“Don’t look in the mirror,” my dentist warned me.
The team of dentists surrounding me were performing the first of many unpleasant procedures I’ve ended since that night when a fast-moving Jeep crashed into my head and smashed my face.
I hadn’t known what the dentists were going to do that morning when I walked into their office a few weeks later, and my brain was too frazzled from my traumatic brain injury to understand anything they told me.
Why did it sound like the dentists were using an angle grinder inside my head? Were they carving three of my top remaining front teeth into pointy vampire teeth?
I’d had what felt like 793 shots of novocaine so I couldn’t feel what they were doing, but I could hear it and watch them working.
“Don’t look in the mirror.” I whisper-chanted the advice from the dentist to myself as I hobbled down the hall for a bathroom break, supported by my shiny turquoise cane. I covered my mouth with my left hand, just in case my eyes disobeyed me and strayed to the mirror.
I’d obviously already seen my face post-crash, but I knew I couldn’t handle having the image of what I looked like mid-power-tool-session seared into my now-fragile brain.
I thought about my life on the afternoon of Sept. 1, 2020. Back then, living through the pandemic was the most stressful part.
I had started as director of the city-led Move PGH collaborative on April Fools Day, weeks after the country shut down because of COVID-19. My job was ambitious and exciting, and I was ecstatic to spend my days on a program to make it easier for everyone to live well without owning a car.
Because of COVID, I never had a chance to bond or giggle or brainstorm or commiserate around the water cooler with my colleagues and collaborators — I was just a disembodied head on Zoom calls.