For a while last year I suffered a series of seemingly random fainting spells. No doctor could find a cause and no cure, in spite of several “helpful” amateur suggestions, could be found. My life, it seemed, would be spent half strutting about London and half draped face down across tube platform and public lavatory floors. Until, that is, one fateful night when an unlikely remedy would present itself.
It was a night like any other, I was drinking prosecco with a transvestite in a floating Chinese restaurant in Camden and hoping I wouldn’t pass out wantonly in the wontons, when evening drew to a close and homeward was my destination. We touched up our rouge and girded various loins, before bracing ourselves for the cold wintry air (doesn’t narrow down the time placement much, does it?) and the subsequent rush of stale armpit fumes that greeted us as we scampered into the underground station and boarded our respective trains.
In accordance with the rules of Mysterious Fainting Club (after rule 1, which is, you don’t talk about Myster-no wait, wrong club), I stripped off as many outer layers as would be decent (quite a few at that time of night) and tried to remain as ventilated as possible, ready to declare myself unfit for standing and cattle prod the nearest seated person into “graciously” proffering their perch. First leg of the journey was a breeze, not even a flicker of a droop or a hint of the consumptive Victorian vapours. Clearly luck and a buoyant blood pressure were on my side and I would make it home without playing Kiss Chase with the floor. Not so.
Leg two of my journey took a very different turn. I could feel it, creeping at first, that hot flush of flesh turning cold and then a sudden rush of dizzying head, my prickling limbs emptying of blood and balance. Being well practiced at this by now, I slumped on the nearest platform bench, tried to shove my head where normally only gynaecologists dare, and burst into tears. As I had become rather adept at this sort of thing, normally a few minutes of staring at my undercarriage would have been quite sufficient and I would be on my way, but Londoners are not nearly so unfriendly as you might imagine – every public fainting spell has garnered me many helping hands and several bottles of mineral water (handy tip if you’re ever short of a few coins for the drink vending machine), and so I drew a few well-meaning samaritans, or possibly just those curious to see what was so fascinating up my skirt.
In trying to assure people that this was the normal behaviour of a gal about town, with assertions of my many medical checks and previous fainting form, and while also trying to get as many cries out my mouth as self pity would allow, I somehow forgot to do that breathing thing I’ve heard so much about. I promptly slid to the floor and awoke in a pool of panic attack, possibly spilled there by a careless commuting drama student. This was not going well.
Various qualified first aiders fussed about me, prodding and poking at my prone carcass, like butchers readying a pig for the chop, manipulating me into something akin to the recovery position crossed with an advanced yoga pose. An ambulance was called for and my now frantic breathing turned my heart into a fleshy cage filled with hummingbirds. While my ears were devastatingly acute down there among the dust, my mouth, crippled by hyperventilation and dryness, could utter no words of protestation, even as one helpful soul suggested clamping a canvass shopping bag over it to “help” me breathe (I’m fairly certain he’s now up on a murder charge for smothering an asthmatic). There was nothing I could do but lie there and listen to the sound of kind strangers discussing my potential demise.
A full half hour of breathing faster than a One Direction fan huffing the fart of Harry Styles, the paramedics arrived. Still unable to explain that everything was fine, that this was not a medical emergency and that really I was going to be ok, that my body just likes causing a dramatic swoon in the hopes my one true soul mate will catch me and we will ride off into the sunset on a horse made of glitter, gin and sunbeams, I was forced to lie, stricken and vulnerable while about me strangers attempted to fill in the blanks of this floundering female.
My audience each in turn proffered their version of events and still the emergency medical staff wanted more information. I could hear them asking me my vital details but not a sound could I drag from my lips. A paramedic, a kindly soul, a saver of lives and wailer of sirens, informed me that he was going to reach into my bag for my wallet. All fine there, I trusted this good person not to steal my credit cards and, what?… WAIT!
I could feel my heart beating impossibly faster, my blood pressure so dangerously close to causing my eyeballs to erupt from my face like gruesome Champagne corks, a shrill noise only audible to bats and Mariah Carey rushed from my throat and my life raced before me (that’s a lot of heels and wine). I was powerless to stop it. How, how could this be happening?! It seemed to occur in excruciating slow motion – right there and then, in front of a crowded platform he pulled my driver’s licence from within my wallet and, for all to hear, HE READ OUT MY ACTUAL DATE OF BIRTH!
I have never fainted again since.