Citation: jk. "Looped Reality: An Experience with Nitrous Oxide & Oxygen (ID 16335)". Erowid.org. Sep 15, 2003. erowid.org/exp/16335
Last year, I broke my teeth. I fell off my bicycle at speed (while sober; it was a mechanical failure) and broke the fall entirely with my mouth. Needless to say, this was not fun. The shattered jaw was set and has healed beautifully, but lacking dental insurance I was unable to have my needed tooth repairs done. A year later, it had developed into horrible infection, the bone had completely dissolved, and I was in urgent need of care. Enter the Supreme Tooth-Fu Dental Master Artisan, a longtime friend of the family and a senior, trusted expert in restoration. He also had a huge tank of nitrous, and decades of practice with it.
That said, I was still completely terrified. Everyone I'd asked about nitrous said 'yeah, you feel the pain, you just don't really give a fuck.' I didn't understand this, from my limited youthful experiences with whipped cream cans - I thought the high would last a minute, you'd feel great, and then you'd be right back to the real world. I didn't realize that they keep a mask on your nose the whole time. So, in the chair, I was nervous to the point of trembling. My pain threshold is extremely high, but not high enough to take 2 extractions and extensive digging/cutting/cleaning without being totally incapacitated. Boy, was I in for a treat. The dentist and hygienist strapped the nosepiece on me and grinned as if I was being indoctrinated into a secret club.
The feeling started at the tips of my fingers. I noticed that my hands and feet didn't want to move around as much, though they were still responsive. I ran through some logical tests in my head and made sure I could still think straight, and I could. Still scared, I thought this was the best it would get, so when asked how I was doing, I told them, 'not feeling a thing.' They turned it up, and kept working on their preparations. In 10 minutes, they came back and the dentist said, 'So so so so so how how how how how how are are are are are are you you you you you you you you feeling feeling feeling feeling feeling now now now now now now now now?'
I knew this was going to be fun.
The world echoed and time stretched out. The dentist took his needle and injected me with a hefty dose of lidocaine. The physical sensation of the injection did not bother me at all, but my sense of taste was still very acute and I felt myself grimace a bit at the chemical bitterness of the stuff, though short-lived as it soon numbed my tongue as well. The next thing I noticed was that my synesthesia was going into overdrive, starting with my pitch/color/texture sense.
The chair lowered with a deep B thrum, and then the drill screamed to life at its very distinctive pitch, oscillating between high registers of B and C# and slowing to an F to F# when it bit angrily into my teeth. Colors leapt out of the corners of my eyes as the sounds around me became intensely musical and I focused solely on their frequencies. The sing-song speech of the adorable hygienist was every bit as interesting to me as the r&b crooning on the car radio that morning. There was some pretty innocuous-sounding Vivaldi (Redundant? yes) playing on the radio, and at first it was echoing profoundly - it seemed as if, while falling into the sky, that the same five note passage was playing over and over again with a flange effect - not a repetition of notes but of sound, and it felt like I was looking at a square grid of luminescent bluish white lines on a dark blue background, rippling out to infinity on the horizon. I studied that effect, curious and aware of its existence, wondering what process the nitrous is interrupting or affecting in order to do that. Could it be an extreme short term memory loop, like some kind of auditory buffer that holds the last two seconds of...
WHOA! I was jarred out of la-la land by the dentist tapping on my shoulder, eager to show me the jagged-edged, broken tooth he had pulled out of my head. I moved my tongue to the spot instinctively, and feeling nothing but bloody gum, I sighed in relief and knew that if I didn't even notice they were doing that, nothing could be very bad. Well, except for the fact that the dentist, a kindly old white-haired man who is perpetually smiling and always ready with his razor-sharp wit and grandfatherly wisdom, seemed extremely strange; the familiar and jovial features of his face were alien to me and he was a strange dragonfly/elephant creature with melting skin. The hygienist - and I'm not making this up - was 'Carrot Lady' - a human carrot with a face and arms. I have no idea how I drew this lateral association but there it was. It wasn't a visual hallucination, I wasn't tripping, but my mind was in purely lateral thinking mode and extremely strange conclusions were drawn based on the wildest linked memories.
Another completely ignored tooth extraction later, they had settled into their curettage groove, cleaning out my gum sockets, and I was in need of something else to focus on; they had fallen silent. So I concentrated on the colorful, comfy music, and just in time: Beethoven's Fifth started playing, and despite its being popular to the point of cliche, it is one of my favorite pieces of music. I'm a composer and I work a lot with orchestral music. I've never, ever heard it like this before, though, not on any other drugs (I was into weed, LSD, and methamphetamines a lot during my teenage years) and never by concentrating while alert. My physical body was completely irrelevant at this point and ALL of my consciousness was focused on the sound entering my ears. It sounded as if I was listening to a low-frequency sound, as if the sampling rate of the radio had been reduced to 2 or 4 khz, as if the rate of processing my brain was doing on the sound was dramatically accelerated and I could now tell apart the individual grains of sound making up the waveform. It was not slow motion in a pitch sense, but in a time sense, like the popular DJ effect of timestretching a sound.
There were again spectrums of color leaping over my closed eyelids as I listened. It's difficult to pinpoint the exact colors of sound - I don't see reds and greens, but more iridescent, shiny 'flavors' of light that make me sort of itch inside, like various senses interconnect. While sober, I'll only see it in my mind's eye, seeing / feeling a certain color / texture as the music hits certain frequencies and timbres. Now, however, there was a light show dancing across my vision and elaborate landscapes and flashes, not unlike the 'Journey through Sound' introduction to Disney's Fantasia. It felt very much like an orgasm, a tingle spreading across my body, overwhelming warmth, and a strong inclination to smile and be happy about everything in life at that moment. Structurally the music and the brilliance of the inversions used in the symphony suddenly became clear - I knew at that moment why he chose to ascend and descend, and why a certain sharp or flat was used at a certain point to hint ever-so-subtly at a particular mood and to advance the story.
I listened to most of the Fifth this way, and have figured out so many things about it - and about Beethoven's mind itself - that I had not been able to unravel before. The nitrous high allowed me to move forward in my understanding of aesthetics in general, not just a particular work.
(Transformer / Decepticon spinning logo zooms into camera, recedes, with whoooosh sound)
So, my teeth. By this point they'd cleaned out all the yucky stuff from my gums and taken out both lateral incisors, and were ready to take casts. So they put me on oxygen, and within 10 minutes I was completely back to my normal self. I felt like part of my mind was shutting off and I was reverting to stupidity, a door closed forever. Luckily, forever would only be a few days:
Today, I went back for part two! I had tooth cleaning done, and because of the extreme tenderness and swelling from the surgery, I was put back under nitrous. This time it only lasted an hour, but I was arguably higher. This time there was Rimsky-Korsakov and Mozart, but am not as close to either of them as to Beethoven and I was not under for long enough to get past the echoey drone stage. It was very dreamlike this time, and I was far away from reality with my eyes closed. I became quite self-conscious and thought I was drooling (it was the water jet in my mouth while she cleaned) so I opened up my eyes. There was the hygienist staring deep into them, and I felt a rush of nervousness, like the first time I kissed a girl. My thoughts wandered, and I started thinking about my delicious girlfriend, and how pleased she would be to see my perfect new smile, how much I love her, how much I was looking forward to......... Uh-oh. I was beginning to sport wood in the dentist's chair. A brief wave of panic surged over me, fear of being ..caught stiff, by a pretty hygienist, oh no! And then I realized, with a wide grin:
I didn't really give a fuck.
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