I was a fairly average kid, did okay in school, went to swimming competitions, rode my pushbike a lot. Nothing particularly notable about me.
One day, in primary school, I decided to run up the slide in the school's playground. The slide was wet and I slipped.
Smashed my face.
I could feel instantly that something wasn't right. I felt my face, my teeth. My front teeth were broken in half.
I felt myself go pale, I was close to fainting. I understood that these were my adult teeth and they would not grow back.
I felt like I was going to be deformed for life. A freak. There was no undoing this.
This was the first mistake in my life which had actual permanent consequences. This was my first understanding of what life is all about.
I went to the teacher's office, they gave me ice, called my parents.
I was taken to a dentist's office, holding the broken parts of my teeth in my cheek because that's what a teacher told me to do.
This was my first trip to a proper dentist. They worked on me. Needles. Drilling. Epoxy. Bright lights.
They... they had fixed me. They put the missing pieces back together.
I was so terrified that my life as a normal person was over, but this man, this Dentist, had saved me. I was so amazed and grateful.
I vowed on this day that I too would become a dentist and perform the same kinds of miracles for other people.
Life moved on, I finished primary school, worked hard in high school. Always trying to learn things that would be useful to my eventual dream career.
I wasn't naturally good at biology, but I studied as much as I could. I was an A student all around.
I met a girl. Her name was Emily. She had very nice teeth.
She was my first girlfriend. My first kiss.
Her friends didn't like me. They thought I was weird because I was always in the library. They all sat where the popular people sat.
They pressured her to stop hanging out with me. They wanted her to date the older brother of one of the popular girls.
I couldn't compete with this. I was dumped. Heartbroken. The world was very unfair.
I finished school. I went to university. Got my bachelor's in dental surgery. Started working at a practice. Enjoyed the work, although I was mostly doing simple things, I was happy.
One day I took a patient card and saw a name I immediately recognised. Emily.
I saw her and knew. She was beautiful. She was older than when we were kids, obviously, but still had her bright smile.
She had come for a checkup and clean. Fair enough.
I could tell she didn't recognise me. Either it was the mask and goggles, or she just didn't care, but I was too nervous to push the issue.
I did her exam. There was nothing wrong with her. I was very happy about that, but I didn't want her to go. Her next checkup would be in a year and a lot can change in that time. Maybe she'd never come back.
I was thinking fast, but I made up an excuse. That she had a tooth that looked infected. Second molar on the bottom left. I wanted her to come back next week so that I could do a root canal.
It's not a particularly comfortable procedure, but I wanted something that took a while. I wanted to spend more time with her. My assistant didn't seem to notice that there was nothing actually wrong and set up the appointment.
She left my room. My hands were sweaty inside my gloves. I took my lunch break.
The next week. Wednesday afternoon. She came back, and we set up to do the work.
I started poking around, tried making small talk. I'd never done a procedure that wasn't needed before...
I wasn't sure how to start.
I took some xrays like I normally would. We had a digital machine so the images appeared on my screen instantly.
While I was looking at the images of a perfectly healthy tooth, I slowly came to the realisation that once I had done this, she would again leave and not come back.
I couldn't keep bringing her back for made up problems. But I also didn't want her to leave. I wanted her to stay with me forever. At least part of her.
"Oh, this isn't good" I lied.
I told her the tooth was too badly infected for a root canal.
I told her that we should extract the tooth altogether, before it infected the other teeth and her jawbone.
She was nervous about this, but I told her it was necessary and that the time is now, otherwise we'd have to rebook her for another time and the infection might spread.
For some reason, my assistant didn't bat an eyelid to any of this. I realised at this point that she didn't actually care about her profession.
Emily was squirming, but I knew I had to do this now. I wouldn't get another chance.
I numbed her up. She closed her eyes tight for the two needles and for most of the procedure.
Forceps. Elevator. The actual extraction itself was very easy (which was to be expected, I guess).
There was blood obviously, but nothing some gauze couldn't fix.
I popped my prize into a little plastic specimen jar. I could tell she wanted to see it, but I told her it's not a good idea, these things are usually pretty gross.
In truth, the tooth was white, whole and absolutely perfect.
We tidied up. I booked her in for a follow up visit, but with another dentist at the practice. I felt kind of guilty about what I had done, although also quite exhilarated.
Now that I was no longer focused on a task, my hands were shaking pretty badly. I don't think anyone noticed.
I kept the tooth in a drawer at the practice. Inside its yellow-lidded plastic container.
I never saw Emily again. She didn't come back for her follow-up.
I think she suspected something, but I didn't care. I had something that made me happy, a part of her that was now mine forever.
I kept thinking about how easy it was to take what I wanted.
Sure, it was risky, but what was the worst that could happen? It would be the word of a trained dentist against a civilian.
I'd like to say that this is where I stopped.
About six weeks later, a very pretty lady came in. Tall and thin with red/orange hair.
I wanted to keep part of her too. She needed a filling. I wanted a tooth. I did basically the whole routine again. Different assistant today, same result.
It was much less stressful this time around.
I did this a few more times. 22 times over the next 17 months, to be exact.
Eventually complaints were made. They found the drawer with the teeth in them.
I was stupid to keep them at work but I thought that a collection of teeth at a dentist's office would be easier to explain than a collection of teeth at my home.
It wasn't really.
There was some legal shit that happened. I had to pay some money (which I actually didn't mind. Dentists make okay money and I had invested most of what I had earned) and they told me I wasn't allowed to practice dentistry anymore.
I was kind of numb throughout the whole process, to be honest.
I didn't have to go to jail or anything, so that was nice.
I ended up moving cities and changing my name.
This was all a while ago. I do kind of miss the work, but I'm also pretty happy how things are now.