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NO2 by Alex Wilson

The drill. It’s so beautiful.

Dr. Petrini turns on the nitrous oxide. Nothing changes, he tells me it will take three minutes, that most people think it’s instant, but it’s anything but instant. As the gas takes effect I fight back, counting tiles, listening to Dr. Petrini’s demands to Maria, “Suction.” The opposite of what should happen overcomes me; I begin to panic. I am losing it. I am losing control. My mind drifts without reason. The words people say reach my ears before I register their lips moving. Dizzily, I push the volume button on my iPhone up then down, then up, then down, then I don’t remember up from down and can’t hear volume, only noise. Nothing makes sense. Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concert No. 2 falls into my left ear only, the right ear bud lies somewhere in hell. The radio host announces the next piece, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 2. The drill. It’s so beautiful. The way it whines like a saxophone, and wanes like an oboe.

Suction.

Percussion.

The diamonds on the plastic sheet covering the fluorescent lights begin to sparkle with the music in the room and in my left ear. The trumpeter is effervescent. “Don’t worry about the smell, Alex,” the beginning verse of a da capo aria. My seared gums taste and smell like cherubic love. I give in; release my grasp on the volume in my head and at my fingertips.

I hope I die

like this, in this moment, or in another, whenever, I hope I find great peace in the smallest things: the scalloped edges on the 3 millimeter holes that dot the drywall ceiling, feeling flecks of my dead skin pasted to my iPhone screen, tasting what is and was and will be and has been.

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