I fainted today. It happened on the pedestrian crossing of a one-way street somewhere in Granada. I remember parts of it, like not wanting to cross the street because a car was approaching at speed, and then it slowed down to a stop, so I began to cross, and somehow I hit the back of my head on the bitumen. Then someone was holding my arm, and I couldn’t walk straight or say anything, and then nothing. When I came to next, I was lying in the middle of the road with several people standing around me, speaking in a language I couldn’t understand. Beside me were four cars, hazard lights flashing on three, and a child in one taking pictures of me, or a video, I couldn’t be certain. I tried to get up, but one of the people near put their hand on my chest and invited me to stay down. So I did.
I was scared. I didn’t understand what was happening, and everything seemed out of focus, out of language. I slipped in and out of consciousness maybe three times, and only after I came to for the third time did I feel a somewhat familiar grasp on reality. I don’t know why, but at that moment I thought I would be robbed, so I felt for my pockets, and everything was gone. That made me feel really sick. But then someone laid my kindle, phone, and wallet on my chest, and I decided that no one was going to rob me. I noticed a middle-aged man was holding my hand, and another had his hand on my knee, and they were smiling, saying warm things to me in Spanish. It helped a lot, and I began to will myself out of panic, holding hands with these strangers.
My back pressed against the bitumen, I tried to think about what had happened. Why had I passed out? I had been lying down on a park bench reading a book, and then it had been time to pick up the boys from school. So I’d stood up quickly, continuing to read the book because an unexpected scene had moulded, and I needed to keep reading. If anyone has read, ‘The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle’ by Haruki Murakami, you may know of the gruesome torture scene that appears in the first quarter of the novel. It took me by surprise, and part of me thinks right now, that this played a large role in why I passed out. I’m thinking it was most likely a combination of two tides. The feeling when you stand up too quickly after lying down and lose vision because all blood has rushed from your brain—and the feeling you experience when reading an exceptionally gruesome scene, a type of scene, that if I had known of prior to reading this book, I would have skipped.
After four minutes of consciousness, I started to comprehend what the people around me were saying. Part of my español had switched on, but all I could muster in reply was that I didn’t speak Spanish, or I couldn’t speak it well. The thought of trying to speak anything other than English was distressing. I kept on patting my crotch, because the last time I fainted I had been giving a blood sample at the doctors. When I came to that time, I’d wet my pants and the doctor was screaming at me to wake up. So after checking my crotch, I was thankful I hadn’t wet myself, and that no one was screaming at me. From above someone was asking what happened, but I didn’t want to say that I read an over-feeling scene from a book and fainted because of it. It was easier to say that I had stood up too quickly. ‘I was lying down—and I stood up too quickly—I think—I’m sorry.’ In my head I kept thinking, maybe it’s important you tell them what really happened, but another part of me thought not to. I would have been classified as loco, or drugged, if I had proclaimed my incident to be the result of reading a novel. Even though that is what happened.
Then someone was calling an ambulance in Spanish, and all I could think about was how I wish she wouldn’t call an ambulance. I have no money. How was I going to pay for a goddamn ambulance? I think the fear of medical bills in a foreign country was enough to level me back to centre. I started speaking remarkable Spanish, telling people I was fine. Talking my way out from under the people who were insisting I lie down, until I was standing and thanking them all deeply for everything they had done. Walking away, I couldn’t think of a stranger thing to happen, or encounter such helpful strangers, whom without I would have been in very a bad way.
A book made me faint today, and I’m not sure I can finish it now, which is disappointing because it was shaping to be a good book. When I called my mum and told her about the incident, she said something to the effect of, ‘-yes, it’s a lovely story, dear, but now go to the doctors and find out what really happened.’ Which made me very glad I hadn’t told the people who helped me out, that I had fainted from a novel.