The Greatest Lie Ever Told
When I was ten years old and significantly occupied with Shrek, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, the chronological numbering of Disney Classics, and self-assurances that I would be able at some age to invent an elixir of life (this last thought itself a magical antidote to the black thoughts of ending that encroached persistently upon my brain and which I could only convey to my parents as such: ‘I can’t stop thinking about like space and dying’), we were made in class to watch two sex education videos.
I was prone to fainting at detailed description of medical routine and many things to do with the body; I had undergone an operation and some medical procedures at an even younger age than ten that had made me feel especially sick. I had fainted when a teacher told me about having her tonsils removed and said THEY PUT IT DOWN YOUR THROAT LIKE THIS and mimed with her hand some sort of gargantuan surgical implement going into her mouth. I had fainted when everyone at school was meant to have an injection, and had lain in the room where all the other children who had fainted were and where a teacher told us to imagine we were on a plane in a very dreamy state and that there were lots of fluffy clouds and someone had said to her BUT I GET AIRSICK. I had nearly fainted at the museum in a dark reddened room which was designed like a chest cavity, where a detailed animatronic heart ten times my size throbbed on the ceiling.
When we were shown the first of our educational videos I felt very sick and faint, and was taken very kindly from the room and to the school nurse, who did not believe me when I told her that I had been a noisy baby, because, she said, I was such a quiet child. The second video I made it through without anxious quease. I was very proud. I told the teacher’s assistant. ‘I watched the sex education video today without feeling sick.’ Centuries on I cannot speak much to additional success on this front.
Throughout the first of the two videos, of which I saw perhaps half, a doctor or nurse appeared to elaborate on the different segments of the film. She told us about the changes that might happen or might have already happened in our different bodies. She told us why the animated couple were chasing each other around their bedroom with no clothes on and tickling each other with giant feathers. She told us:
‘One day you’re going to have a crush on someone, a boy or girl you know, and it’s going to be the most wonderful feeling!’
And she continued to tell us things, but, eventually, having paled, I was lying back in a chair in the nurse’s room.
Later in the day I was home. I got to play on the PlayStation. I got to watch Beauty and the Beast for the first time. It is number 32.
It is a long time past: humpbacked televisions bucketed into rooms on wheeled trollies.
I have fainted on the train and woken in an unknown place five hours later with my belongings stolen. I have fainted on the floor of a friend’s bathroom and woken up to a toilet full of unflushed sick and an emptied bottle of spirits and a friend hastily shoving my clothes into a travel bag and ninety minutes remaining to get to an airport and check in and board and fly home. I have fainted on the floor of a bathroom and woken up and gone into another bathroom and fallen asleep in there. I have lain down on the street and fainted in a curled position out of pain while the boys at the burger van ate beer and burgers and looked at me and wondered visibly what I was on.
It is not a sure thing or a definite thing, but it seems greatly likely all this latter fainting is the result of a very big and very wicked lie, told very many centuries ago.
John Banning lives in England. He has waxed nostalgic about PlayStation in The Daily Drunk and penned TV guides for the Bear Creek Gazette. You can also find his work in Dream Journal, Maudlin House, Rejection Letters and here at Ligeia. All of these works have washed up here.
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