This month's feature is all about prolific and multifaceted poet and writer Lindz McLeod. "Choke" is both the title of her short story, and what I almost did while reading it!
Lindz McLeod is a queer, working-class, Scottish writer who lives in Edinburgh and dabbles in the surreal. Her short stories have been published or are forthcoming in by The Scotsman newspaper, the Scottish Book Trust, Twist in Time Magazine, Wrongdoing Magazine, Cossmass Infinities, and more. In 2019, she was commissioned by the Dundee Victoria & Albert Museum (one of Time Magazine's Greatest Places To Visit) to create a work of family-friendly fiction for their 'Hello, Robot' exhibit. Her poetry has been published by Grain Magazine, Hellebore, perhappened, Allegory Ridge, and more. She is represented by Headwater Literary Management, and is currently hard at work on her second novel.
When I was six weeks old, I was ‘cranky’. A doctor examined me, flushing, he told my mother that I was submerged, my infant lungs brimming with amniotic fluid. I hadn’t been flushed out properly. A scene permanently set. A life spent politely dying.
even when you were born, you didn’t cry,
though the birth was hard and
you inched out the wrong way up; face
towards the stars, legs ready to vault.
As an adult, I have a recurring nightmare; I’m looking for a bathroom. I spend the majority of the dream searching and searching. Fruitless, no pulp. And towards the end – it feels like years, as I trudge through corridors I never recognise – I find one. It’s rarely my own bathroom. Usually, it’s brand new room every time. I stop drinking after 8pm, thinking that the culprit might be a full bladder, but this makes no difference; I blink into existence again and again, only half a heart lost. I kneel on the white-tiled floor (hotel-clean, at least three stars) and then I
The sound of the sea lapping over my mussel-tongue
My mouth is full of a sticky gum residue,
off-cream to match the grouting; no matter how much of it I
claw out, endless handfuls of stringed gluey dentist putty.
It grows faster than I can dig it out.
Fingers reaching, prompting retching.
Fist inside my gullet.
I capsize the evidence of my fathoms.
I dreamed this every time a relationship is in decline, the body snoring easy beside me
plastering my airways, papering over the face. A little on-the-nose, that symbolism, but the body prefers blunt honesty. My truths have always forced me underwater – my sexuality, my gender, my dreams. I spoke myself as a child; I learned that I was meant to hold my tongue. Words, uncaged, feel like candid breath on the body, true life in the lungs. A truth can duck you for a witch, the signs of the times writ small and safe upon my forearm.
Miles to go, before I sleep. I have no one else to be. I refuse.
I never asked whether I showed any signs
of it, these dormant strangulations.
No words were offered, no curious insight.
I keep all my drownings to myself.
Inspiration behind the story
This is a true story, and a question I don't yet have an answer to - perhaps I never will. When I was born, I really was slowly drowning to death in my own amniotic fluid, which wasn't discovered for quite a while. The doctor told my mother that due to this issue, he didn't recommend the measles and whooping cough vaccine, as he felt my body was under a lot of strain already. Naturally, I then contracted measles when I was about 10 months old. Figuring that would be the end of it, and assuming I was now immune, I was allowed to go about life as normal; I then got measles again aged 3, and developed whooping cough at age 8. This bizarre series of childhood illnesses, which ended up causing asthma, left me with strange, breathless dreams all my life. As an adult, they grew into odd nocturnal manifestations which seemed to arise as a cause of stress and strain, and began to reoccur as the exact series of events in this piece. I'd find myself in a dream bathroom, clawing out what felt like sticky putty or perhaps chewing gum which has been masticated a bit too long. None of my partners could ever confirm that this was accompanied by any physical motions in the real world, so I still don't know if I was choking on something real or imagined. These dreams become frequent when I'm experiencing a lot of stress or feeling oppressed in a relationship. My body signals things that my mind takes a little longer to acknowledge, to paraphrase a certain St Vincent Millay poem! I suspect in many ways I've been drowning all my life; writing feels like the only way to pull out those blockages from my airways, to allow my body to breathe again.
Disclaimer: EMC's Writer of the Month series seeks to promote the artist and their featured writing and is in no way an endorsement of any of said artist's services, opinions or other work outside of this feature.