Muscle Memory 

I distinctly remember a stainless-steel box from my childhood, round and full of sweets. The lid was always too tight for me to work open, and left dented and raw the skin on my fingertips. When I hungered for what lay inside, my fingers used to glide over the steel, grip onto the dimpled lid and push it upward till it gave way – or until the pressure revealed that my skin knew a thing called tenderness.

 

The sweets used to give me an aching stomach, and my mother always put them in that one box. She knew I’d rather not have any than have my fingers bruise from prying the box open. Pain was always a deterrent, and I was a Pavlovian dog.

 

But the box, I still picked it up ever so often – muscle memory – and inevitably put it back in the fridge. I imagined it sitting in there awkwardly, quite literally a round peg in a square hole.

 


Today, I overshared again.

 

I let things spill out of me and untether and unravel; and though I wanted them to, they hurt: like a sailor losing treasure, like an oil slick during high tide, like I had a terrible stomachache again.

 

Pain is still a deterrent, and all my life has been lived the way I was conditioned to. My thoughts are willed to remain on the floor of my heart like a half-chewed sweet congealing to the bottom of a box it once belonged to.

 

Today was just one of the days I thought myself to be capable of unlearning.

 

I clamp the lid shut again, the box as full of emotions as could be, and hope the throb of my fingers comes back to me when I feel the urge to open it to the world.

Some things are better this way.

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