The Body Remembers

My body remembers things that I do not. The strain of some movement is written across my right quadricep this morning. When did I make that move? Saturday? Tuesday? Likewise the muscles of my lumbar spine. Dull ache. Where from?

My right knee remembers 1988, the year my high school cross-country coach recommended I run through worsening tendonitis. If I cross my legs for too long, sitting at the dinner table or in front of the TV, an angry pain runs down alongside my knee cap. Fortunately, it doesn’t bother me when I run.

My right ankle recalls every sharp cut I made on a soccer field and every root I caught at the wrong angle, out on the trail. Sometimes it swells for no obvious reason. It grinds and pops. I limp from bed in the middle of the night, to pee.

I broke my collarbone, and it healed, but all the attached muscles went into spasm for months on end. It makes a sound like a car over a rumble strip when I roll the shoulder in every morning, drinking my coffee, trying to get the engine started. Even now, healed, the right is only 90% of the left.

Scars across the backs of both hands, stitches and surgery. Tendons torn in climbing mishaps and home accidents. Injuries that arrived when I was thinking of something else. The emergency room, splints and bandages. I have a boxful in the upstairs closet.

A knot across my left Achilles, the accumulated damage of a thousand runs when I ignored the discomfort collecting there, the times I caught that foot on a steep angle and couldn’t flex out of it. The pain flares and settles, flares and settles.

Fortunately, my body also remembers the chemical euphoria of a million physical moments. Times my body did things my mind only barely conceived or carried me through when my brain told me it wouldn’t. Runner’s high. The fond recollection of a good goal scored, or a hard boulder problem sent, a long run finished despite this damage report.

There is a background fear that I will wreck this one body I’ve been given. There’s another fear, that I won’t.