My Muscle Memory

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I’ve made the trip to Germany so many times, that the whole process has become akin to muscle memory. I board in the late afternoon in Denver, and fly to either Frankfurt or Munich (depending on the day). I work for the first couple hours and watch a movie when the meal is served. If I can sleep for a couple of hours in the short fly-through night, that’s a victory. I spend the last hour staring listlessly at the seat in front of me or the other confused passengers, as breakfast is served, and morning bursts through the raised windows. There are no thoughts, and I focus on not becoming impatient and claustrophobic.

I land in the late morning, German time. The layover’s short, and the time is consumed with passport control, putting credit on my German SIM card, and using a second wind to write a little. For the final leg, I take a puddle jumper to Munster. I pass out end-to-end on the 45-minute flight. Waking when the plane hits the tarmac. I rent a car, and drive to my hotel, where I take a post-international travel shower, which is one of the most satisfying feelings in the world.

By this time it’s nearly 4 pm, roughly 8 am Denver time, and if I’m lucky I’ve had a few hours of sleep. I’m puffy eyed, and running on coffee fumes. I get back into my car and drive into the North Rhine-Westphalia countryside, and to my daughter’s secluded home. But it’s easy, as soon as she’s with me. She runs to me and wraps her arms around my legs. It feels like nothing is lost.

It’s only after I drop her off that my body starts to collapse. By the time I drive back to the hotel, it’s nearly 8 pm. I eat a heavy German dinner, take a Xanax, and if I’m lucky, sleep the longest sleep in two months. It’s startling to sleep for more than eight hours, when you normally get five. And in the morning I feel what I almost never feel in my day-to-day life, groggy. It translates to opaque thoughts and stunted motor skills: I wander around my room looking for nothing, bump into door frames, and trip on invisible steps. How much of this is the Xanax, and how much of this is the displacement, I have no idea. It’s surreal, and would be frustrating if I lived in it for too long. But it’s welcome, because it’s a novelty and a distraction.

Even writing this is a creation of that half-lucid state. And as I drink coffee, it slowly brings me back. That’s the best use of coffee that I’ve ever found: an easy return to reality. Maybe that’s why most people drink coffee in the morning, to clear away the cobwebs. Considering I wake most days in a panic, it’s a pleasure to have the opportunity to feel the fog slowly lift.