Bernadette, if you are reading this, please consider coming back. Things have changed and so have I. I think I’m ready to return to dentistry now and stop all this silly business. My confidence has returned and the tools of the trade no longer engender the profound terror they once did. Sure, I lost a patient but so do the best surgeons occasionally. Needless to say, the chances of reopening my doors in this country are slim so I’ll have to head abroad. Somewhere that is less uptight about credentials and all that business. I’m actually feeling good about this. I’ve looked up where all the teeth are on the internet and, despite some uncertainty as to the whereabouts of the bicuspids, I feel I am good to go.
I realise now that you were right, I should never have permitted Mother to remain in the surgery while I performed complicated procedures. Mother sees that now too. The drinking, shouting and playing of UK Subs CDs (full blast on her ‘wireless’) was intensely disconcerting and it is no surprise the periodontal probe slipped and cost the boy his life. I know you are still angry and I know that anger is compounded by the fact that the boy in question was our own. I remember how you tearfully roared ‘why didn’t you take him to a proper orthodontist?’ but I still feel that, despite losing our only child, we did save a substantial sum of money. Orthodontists charge the sun, moon and stars Bernadette. Money is hard to come by but we can always have another child.
Now that some time has passed, I hope you can see that it was not just me at fault and we can begin a process of mutual forgiveness. The Mother says she will play ball too. I miss you Bernadette. I miss the nape of your neck, your toes, the small of your back and the house has become very untidy. Our new house (in Afghanistan probably) will need to be kept ship-shape too and the Mother says you’re the only one for the job. She never did get along with the Filipino we employed after your departure. They fought bitterly and the Mother lost an eye.
Try and recall the good times Bernadette - there were good times. Remember when we let you out for a bit of a run in the garden. The sunshine. The fresh air. Remember how you held up your arms to the heavens, as if attempting to grasp it all before the Mother’s stopwatch ran to zero and she blew her whistle, summoning you back inside to continue the chores. After a time, (when you had come around to our way of thinking and stopped prattling on about your other husband and children) I felt we were really making a go of things. However, you had to contact the authorities and then there was the siege and my gun shot wound. I forgive you for the wound Bernadette, perhaps you can forgive me for the boy. He was quite overbearing all things considered and, as I said earlier, there is more where he came from.
I’ll finish by saying that we leave next week. I’m packing now and the Mother has chosen a lovely crate for you. Please come back Bernadette. I admit things were not perfect but at least we provided your life with structure and purpose, the fundamental desires of the human psyche. At least you knew where you were with us. Do you feel the same certainty now, in the company of those post-traumatic councillors, all running around the sorting office of your mind, putting stuff back where it does not belong? Like God or the government, we relieved you of the burden of self-determination and existential dithering. Freedom is overrated. In fact it is a myth. Come back to the fold Bernie. Everyone goes back to some fold or other, after a fashion, eventually, when it all gets too complicated. Just think about it,