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Saturday, June 02, 2012


On Fainting

When I think of passing out, the image in my mind tends to be of women in 1930s comedies, falling into Harpo Marx’s arms or maybe flopping onto a fainting couch, the very name of which implies a gentle end to losing consciousness. 

If you stop and really consider it, though, it doesn’t come across as something akin to diving into a pool of velvet.  I mean, one second, you’re standing upright.  Head as high as it will go.  Then your body gives out and you take the quickest path available to the floor.  Doesn’t matter what’s in your path, you and the floor are going to get to know each other more intimately as soon as gravity will allow.

I’ve had three passing out experiences in my life, the latest of which was this morning.  And not goddamn one of them was pleasant.

The very first time I passed out, I was maybe fifteen.  I had a nasty, vicious, malevolent flu.  I was standing in the kitchen of the model house we had built.  The model house that my family had moved into when things took a turn so that we were no longer going to be building more of them and so it had become not a model house, but just a place to live until we moved someplace else. 

The point is, I guess, that the place hadn’t been completely finished and we lived in it for a couple of years with cement floors.  So I was standing on the cement floor in the kitchen as my mother very kindly made me an Alka Seltzer Plus.  As I waited for the tablet to completely dissolve, I got a little light-headed and, next thing I knew, I was looking up at my mother from half-way inside the garbage can, which I had knocked over on my way down to the cement floor.

I remember thinking, “Wow.  Fainting is not nearly as fun as I’d assumed.”  Also, “I think there are coffee grounds in my hair.”

I was fortunate to go about twenty-five years before I passed out again.  But when it came time for another go-round, it was a trifecta.

Last winter, for the first time ever, probably in the entirety of our relationship, my wife and I got sick at the same time.  Historically, we’d traded these things off, so that one of us was always healthy enough to resent the person we now had to take care of. 

This time, though, our son had brought home some particularly virulent plague from preschool and it laid us both low.  As my wife moaned on the couch, I headed off to the bedroom, stopping off in the bathroom first. 

I recall feeling woozy as I got up from the toilet and thinking, “I need to be careful standing up, here.  I wouldn’t want to pass--”  And then I sort of quasi-maintained consciousness as I staggered back and collapsed onto the toilet, where I hovered for about a minute on the edge of awareness.

Once I’d snapped back to the waking world, I made a firm decision to get to bed before any of the fainting shit happened again.  I marched down the hall and through the bedroom door and woke up an indeterminate amount of time later in a heap on the floor, with a rocking chair overturned on top of me.  “Ouch,” I thought.  Maybe I said it out loud.  I don’t recall.  What I recall is that I had fallen into a very hard piece of furniture and wrestled it to a draw.  I managed to haul myself to my feet (without managing to pick the rocking chair up) and lurched toward the bed, where I passed out again, this time pulling off a landing on something softer than porcelain or wood.

I chalked all of this awareness-losing up to the flu.  So, between this series of falls and the quarter-century-ago garbage-dive, I know that influenza can lead to my fainting.  Noted.

This morning, though…

I don’t know what the hell happened this morning.  I’m not sick.  I feel mostly fine and have for days.  So I have no idea what caused me, as I was making an early-morning trip to the bathroom, to pass out as I was peeing. 

I hadn’t felt light-headed, to the best of my recollection.  I had a brief, sharp pain in my intestines that made me wince; I leaned on the wall until the pain subsided and then I found myself collapsed on the floor, clutching my head, which I’d apparently smacked on the toilet on my way down.  I cleaned up the floor--as I’d been mid-stream when I veered sharply into dreamland--and cleaned up myself and went back to bed, where I laid awake and worried about just what the fuck is wrong with me.

I don’t like the idea that I can pass out with little/no warning.  I don’t like knowing that I could fall on my face at any moment.  I’m a grown man, not a teenage girl at a 1964 Beatles concert.  That shit ain’t right. 

So, I’m about to do what many guys do in the time after they hit forty.  I’m going to make an appointment for a full-tilt physical.  I’m going to have a doctor tell me every goddamn thing that’s wrong with this aging body of mine and set about dealing with it all.  Most of the time, I still feel like I’m in my twenties.  I still feel young.  But things like this; things like waking up with a bashed forehead in a puddle of your own urine are enough to make a fella feel friggin’ old.

*deep, self-pitying sigh*

BOOM! Kidney stone. Diagnosis complete. Enjoy.
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