By Jen Girdish.
Fainting is a violent thing to the observer. It’s unsteady footing, whites-of-the-eyes, and limp limbs. It’s a quick fall, a simulation of dying. But to the fainter, it’s like turning down the dial on a radio. The fainter loses hearing, then vision, then to goes to sleep. In some ways, the faint—or syncope—is incredibly compassionate.
I’ve spent the few seconds of a faint in potent and tender dreamstates. I’ve been to my grandfather’s stained glass workshop, pressing the backs of my thighs against the soft benches upholstered in his old flannel shirts. I’ve finally ridden the horse that my father bought me for Christmas—the horse that turned out to be wild and never saddled. I’ve played in a pile of fall leaves with Susan Sontag.
The first time I fainted, I had just pierced my ears at one of those overstocked accessory boutiques at the clean mall. I was eleven or so, and mom finally lost the lobe war. We moved in with my grandmother—a different small town outside of Pittsburgh than the other small town outside of Pittsburgh where we used to live. I lost all my friends, so drilling holes in my ears was the consolation prize.
In our debates over whether to defile my lobes with a 15-gauge needle, my mom often brought up Julianne. Julianne was my mom’s student who ripped apart her ear on the playground with just a chandelier earring and a chain-link fence. I pictured the earring ripping like a tag off a new shirt. Julianne’s ears were my mother’s cautionary tale of growing up too early, of not being happy with you have. Continue Reading…