Born Without Enamel

By J.P. Pressley

Your father was born without enamel—born with enamel hypoplasia if you want to be specific. Not that you know the difference. No, don’t Google it now. Don’t research now what you never cared to before. But you should’ve cared before; you should’ve cared to examine the difference between how the two of you navigate life.

Your father experiences everything fully—when he’s thirsty, cold water crashes against his naked incisors with the ferocity of a winter wave; when he’s hungry, warm meals conform around his sensitive canines with the painful sweet sting of a heat pack to the knee; when he’s breathing, crisp air strikes all the way back to his bare molars like a bowling ball attacking spare pins. You don’t. You feel how cold water is cold, how warm meals are warm, how crisp air is crisp, but it doesn’t impact you the same way. These sensations don’t pain you any more than they delight you.

Your father still wishes he could become numb now and then, yet he embraces his reality without complaint. He leans into it, searching for the slight variance in the experience of any and every little twinge. You take your protection for granted, yet complain whenever you face the slightest irritant. You avoid discomfort like the plague, seeking to bypass any and every little twinge without ever stopping to embrace your reality and truly grow through the experience. And you know it.

Your father was born without enamel. You were born with it. That’s not a bad thing. But taking your life for granted? Failing to experience all you can, where you can, when you can?

Your father will die having fully lived. Will you?

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J.P. Pressley is a storyteller with enamel issues and a high pain tolerance. A Minnesotan masquerading as a Brooklynite, he is a graduate of Lindenwood University’s MFA in Writing program and has fiction in 365tomorrows, Litbreak Magazine, and Suddenly, and Without Warning. You can find him at or on Instagram and Twitter at the handle @iamjppressley.

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