The Joy of Fainting

Posted: February 2, 2014 in About Me, life
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

God, the conversation behind me was boring. I remember that. I remember one man telling another the details of his recent office move, the wires that had to be rerouted, the potted trees, chairs that were remarkably easy to dismantle. I was an hour into a queue at customs listening to him describe the packing materials he’d recommend for storing keyboards when I began to not be quite me any more, and then I fainted.

I’ve fainted before, once at a party, once at the end of a bed, once when my toe got half cut off in a revolving door, once at an awards ceremony, so yeah a few times, but rarely so publicly, and rarely so alone. I came to with a crowd of armed policemen surrounding me, arguing over whether to move my head. I was covered in coins – my purse had burst. My arm hurt. It still does.

They scurried me through passport control, where I fainted again, and then they propped me in a broken wheelie chair and scooted me off to the side, where I leaned on a wall for a little while like a broken wheelie chair.

But what sweet pleasure comes with succumbing to a long faint. First the drunken eye shift, where lights appear where before there were none, like Christmas in the rain when you’re driving. And then there’s little point in fighting it, the fall.

We often forget how hard it is to be a grown-up human being, walking in a straight line, not laughing at strangers’ farts, or sneezes, not singing in public. To not roll our eyes at overheard conversations about office moves, or groan, or sit on the floor and tug at our hair and moan: “Stop, please, stop.” It can be very hard trying to be a person, in the world. But when you faint, you stop. You sink into who you actually are. And it turns out who you actually are is a person who has done enough standing up, enough politely taking up just this amount of room, quietly.

Guardsmen are taught to faint to attention, their bearskins clanging to the ground. “Special contempt is reserved for anyone who falls over on his back,” reported the Express before the royal wedding. I fell on my side, quite hard it turned out, across two aisles of strangers, the man with his packing-material advice and his friend’s reinforced luggage, and was unconscious for long enough to dream. I dreamed that I was sleeping. I’ve never dreamed that before.

When I regained consciousness, with the spitting police around me, it felt like I’d had the most marvellous nap. Like I’d slept for 12 hours, on a warm night. Rather than going to a spa, a steam room, a big oily massage, for extreme relaxation I recommend fainting twice, in a foreign country, in a queue, alone.

They took my passport the second time I fainted, and I realised that they thought I was trying to scam my way through customs with all the drugs and bombs. So even when I was ready to leave, I couldn’t. They put me in a wheelchair, and surrounded me with guards, none of whom would look me in the eye.

I was yearning to faint again, fall back into that cottonwool sleep where I was completely myself and not somebody having to convince strangers I wasn’t a terrorist by making my eyes wide and sane.

Eventually they wheeled me to an area where I could watch my case roll round, and round again on the conveyor belt, and then again, but every time I tried to stand and grab it they shook their heads. No. Too dangerous. In time it became clear I was of little threat to America, and the guards insisted on hailing porters who could wheel me to the exit. They asked for $10, “for the ride”. When I told them I didn’t have $10, they took me to the wrong door, and tipped me out. One of them winked. Dick.

I stumbled a bit, in the sun, and then I walked on, swearing.

Fainting is fabulous. It’s waking up and being a person again that’s the problem.


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