The images of some nameless Kerala hotel and my slightly older self faded. The fluorescent ceiling light in the ER registration alcove blurred and the gaudy Christmas decorations swam and bobbled in my line of vision. Then darkness. And light again. A dull ache in the back of my head. Rapid footsteps. My grandmother, facing away from me in a wheelchair and waiting to be admitted for an uncontrollable nosebleed, yelled to be told what happened. Worried nurses’ faces appeared at every angle.
“Put your knees up!” “Don’t move!” “Let’s get a neck brace!”
“No, no!” I insisted, catching my breath, “I’m fine, just fine, I just slipped on these foolish shoes! Nana, I just slipped on the wet floor, it’s OK!”
The nurses looked at the ground. It was wet from melted snow.
I got up, despite the nurses’ protestations.
The change in temperature. The wet floor. My foolishly high shoes. My sinus infection and recent lack of sleep. All of these would be reasonable explanations for my strange fainting episode, but they wouldn’t be the right ones.
What really happened is related to, of all things, the excessive daydreaming I do. I think I can safely say that I daydream more than the average person, and have a very vivid imagination. Not so much for fantastical things, but for replaying events of the past like film reels, and imagining equally rich and detailed alternate futures for myself and the people I know. If the conditions are right –it’s very hot and I’m standing in one place, doing nothing for a long time– I drift into a trance-like state. My immediate surroundings recede and suddenly I’m walking through the old town in Sarajevo or chatting with a friend on the Brussels Metro, or running along a beach in northern Australia, or helping a friend’s (future) children build a pillow fort. Maybe it’s an undiagnosed form of narcolepsy that results in lucid dreaming. Or perhaps I have a blood clot in my brain pressing on something important. Whatever the physical cause, I usually snap out of it with no harm done as soon as someone calls my name or touches me. Yesterday, for the first time (and probably because I was sick and exhausted), I just stopped breathing while I was daydreaming, and consequently fainted.
There could have been worse places for that to happen than the ER of the nearest hospital, I suppose.