I have had concussion three times in my life that I can remember.
The first time, I was eight years old, showing off on the school playground. I was trying to impress my younger brother’s classmate (how sad was I?) with my never-before-tried trick of hanging upside-down WITH ONE LEG. When I unhooked one leg, I accidentally unhooked the other one too, and I fell on my head. I ended up in the sickroom, then confined to bed for the next day.
The second concussion was fifteen years later. I was 24, and I was drunk. Showing off again, really. I was walking home with an old friend I’d once had a mild crush on (which I had just confessed, and discovered it had been reciprocated). It was 3am, and we were on our way back to my flat, having nowhere left to drink. We had just left the truly awful Parkview Hotel (affectionately nicknamed ‘The Parkspew’) and were stumbling down St Georges Rd, North Fitzroy. There were no cars on the road, or almost none. Crossing Holden Street, I stopped in the middle of the road, put my arms around my friend’s neck, and hung there. Then I let go. And fell backwards onto the bitumen, pretty well on my head.
‘Oh my god, oh my god!’ yelled my friend. ‘Are you okay? Why did you do that?’
‘I thought you would catch me.’
A car cruised to a halt as he hauled me to my feet, with some difficulty. The window rolled down and a guy roughly our age stuck his head out.
‘Look after your f***ing girlfriend!’ he bawled. ‘Keep her off the f***ing road!’
We laughed and carried on up the road.
I woke up in the morning and felt the back of my head. My hair was sticky, matted. I looked at my fingers. They were smudged red with blood. So was the pillow.
‘Look!’ I said to my friend.
‘Yeah, I noticed last night,’ he said. ‘I thought you knew.’
Three days later, experiencing nausea, dizzy spells and more spaciness than usual, I went to the doctor. He said I should have come to him earlier for stitches, but it was too late for that now. The concussion seemed to be wearing off, and I’d be fine.
The third time I was concussed was Friday night, at F’s school concert.
It was the final number, all the kids singing as the Blues Brothers, dressed in black, with sunglasses and fedora hats. F wasn’t in it. (In fact, to my mild embarrassment, he was sitting in the front row with his head in a comic book.) But, the mother who had driven us had forgotten her camera, and I was taking photos on her behalf.
I suddenly decided this was too cute to miss, that if this was F, I would definitely want a photo. So, I ducked and ran back through the adoring crowd towards the bag and my camera. THUNK! I reeled backwards, cartoon-like, and steadied myself on the backs of my heels, trying to figure out what had happened. It took a few moments to realise that I had run into an iron bar that bordered the hall. Luckily, nobody had noticed. I grabbed my camera, straightened myself, and wove unsteadily back through the sea of plastic chairs.
My camera’s batteries, as it turned out, were irretrievably flat.
I emerged from the hall with a visible lump on my head and a slightly skewed sense of being. And a headache.
Today, after one in-between day of existing outside myself, I know that I felt decidedly abnormal yesterday, because now I’m feeling relatively normal.
Thinking back on past episodes of concussion, I realise how far I’ve come (or alternatively, how old I am). This time, I wasn’t showing off. I wasn’t drunk or trying to impress someone. I banged my head amidst the excitement of a school concert.
And I’m more of a hypochondriac than I was at 24, because I spent yesterday obsessed with how I was feeling. And there wasn’t even any blood …