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Meandering Route of the Muscle Memories

This piece was chosen for inclusion in the Book Week Scotland Journeys anthology in 2015. It is an early section of my experimental non-fiction project, The Absolution of Shyness

Meandering Route of the Muscle Memories

Question 1:
What do muscle memories feel like?

On a good day of a wonderful journey they probably feel like the best layered Baklava (if it’s sunny), Vienetta (if it’s not). They hum and soothe and spur you alive. You feel their imprint underpin and catch you.
On the good and bad days of a difficult journey (there are both) they vibrate and pulse with the congestion of your heart. They sag. They are grounded. They are psychic embodiment of much maligned bingo wings. You ache with their traces as they nag you and tangle your sense of then and now.

Question 2:
Why am I talking about muscle memories and not a journey?

I am talking about a journey even though I’m not sure it’s a word I like. 
I’m telling you how the coffee in Costa Coffee will forever be steamed with hot hospitals.
I’m saying we were always early for appointments and drank one anyway because it was already too late.
I’m remembering the way people look when they’re embarrassed at being taken into the’ bad news’ waiting room.
I’m feeling regret that I also probably scanned the waiting room to see if any of the happy, expectant faces knew yet.
I’m a passenger in a car but I feel how I did when I biked every day in a city and ended up at work with no recollection of telling my body the way. I quite like this feeling even though the journey is not going to end well.
I’m making jokes that groove my face with recognition from hospital porters and receptionists.
I’m counting amputees that number more than cigarette ends. I can still taste the smoke in their non-existent bones.
I’m singing along to The Velvet Underground playing on the consultant’s mobile phone. I know…
I’m counting Aldi and Lidl and Rejects in Kirkcaldy as markers of doom. I’m redeeming them anew for Prosecco and cheese and Empire biscuits.
I’m speaking my words and my tongue is bitten off by the apology of someone who does not approve of private journeys being made public.
My tongue involuntarily remains stuck out. I am swept up in its journey. They may need to just cross the road.
I am opening car windows and tracing my stitches in circles of thought.
I am holding hands and cutting mine off.
I am reaching the pain barrier of the third bottle of wine.
I am staring at the midwife who says ‘we’ll see you again in no time’.
I am holding a photo of my dead baby’s feet.
My muscles contract and etch in the words.
I am sneaking into my own house in the middle of the night so as not to wake my parents and daughter with my death mask of birth.
I am healing at home but the muscles still ping in patterns of elastic between here and there.
I am done with this journey that I didn’t want to start and no-one told me never stops.
My memories outline me and that is enough. I will no longer flex.

Question 3:
Rank in order what is best about a journey from best to worst from:
Planning, preparing, waiting, experiencing, and remembering.
For this particular journey only the muscle memories have the answer and they cannot be summoned at will. 


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