Receptionist, in voice over:
Welcome to Hyperbole Medical at the Square.
Dental services, phlebotomy and radiology are located
along the corridor to your left,
you can enter the pharmacy from the waiting room or the foyer.
We regret any delays, but
we are experiencing high service demands.
Give your name at the desk and take a seat:
though mention if you are suffering
bleeding, a new rash, or shortness of breath.
While you wait, you can
enjoy a healthy snack or tea
at the Corpus Café
The doctor will see you as soon as possible.
Welcome to Hyperbole … (repeats sotto voce)

Your heart will beat 86400 times.
Older man:
Discovering again how green Mary’s eyes are
and the soft rose of her blush
almost makes forgetting worthwhile.

you will filter 25000 litres of oxygen
from 121000 litres of air,
send it in millions
of red bubbles through
miles of artery to
the 656 muscles that move
206 bones.
Young woman:
The booby-trapped hallway didn’t get me today
I negotiated his minefield of discarded shoes
completely unscathed.

You will lift tonnes:
standing, sitting, walking,
running down stairs -
even if you move
nothing but your own body.
Young man:
I seemed flung out of sleep this morning,
landed, disorientated, dizzy.
It was only her body in the bed that anchored me.

You will do all this on autopilot.
You will not notice, for instance,
that while you slept, your fingernails grew
nearly one tenth of a millimetre.
Middle-aged Woman:
Tugging out grey hairs in the mirror
is a small daily ritual of hope. I like
to defy futility.

You won’t recognise which
muscles contract as you walk,
or how your tendons stretch,
Young woman:
In the bathroom, I twisted to see all my reflection
memorising my silhouette while it’s still
the proper shape.

nor the force with which the blood is impelled
through your arteries.
Middle-aged Woman:
As I cooked breakfast, I pretended I was a ninja
fast, deadly, silent. Nobody noticed.
Success, I suppose.

You certainly won’t perceive the expansion of lungs
the rise and fall of ribcage,
taste the rich soup of your breath.
Young man:
The gilding sun made her face shine
so brightly I could barely inhale. So I held her, breathless,
until she wriggled from my arms to make tea.

You will not stop, even for a moment,
to wonder at the complex integration
of form and functionality that is
the machine we all drive.
Older man:
As light crawled through the crack in the threadbare curtains
I was washed into wakefulness on the tide of her breath
for a moment it swamped me, and I knew I would drown.

But, as the engine ticks over,
your heart will beat 86400 times –
give or take a skip or two.

Part of the Anatomy project

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