Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Blacking out the Fiction

I came within moments of passing out today in my Oral Expression Class.

Today was the ever dreaded "speech day." The goal for this one was to get experience in giving an "informational speech" to the class lasting five to seven minutes. We are always instructed to pick a topic that is near and dear to our hearts. I decided to do mine on the rank of Eagle Scout, and the trappings involved in obtaining that honor.

I woke up this morning feeling very rested after a night of heavy homeworking. I showered, dressed, poured over my speech one last time, and then boarded the train to school. No problems. I got a quick bite to eat at Panera, and a cup of coffee hoping to settle my nerves. Then I went to class.

When I got up to give the speech I was, as I always am, nervous, with a tremor in my hand which I swear you could see from the moon, but no one ever claims to see. Heart racing from the adrenaline of nerves, and a bit of caffeine in my system. The first line, a quote from Gerald Ford concerning his Eagle, I felt was great.

Then a few moments in it starts to hit. This sudden sense of a large burden, or maybe more of a dropping sensation. My extremities go numb, though I mostly notice it in my fingers and hands. It's like all the blood suddenly evacuated my limbs in an emergency retreat to bolster around my heart or something. I forget a line or two. Keeping thoughts in order becomes hard, and anything witty has long since been tossed out the window. Then starts the blacking out.

It begins as an inaudible squeal coming from just inside your ears. It feels like someone is ramming chopsticks through your eardrum into your brain. A gathering pressure between the eyebrows that makes my head feel like a massive zit that would just feel better if I could pop it and release some of the pressure. A squeezing sensation in both my temples. Then on the edges of my vision this blackness appears. You don't realize it until later. It creeps in. Insidious. You start blinking a lot, thinking that maybe it's just your eyes playing tricks on you. Vision starts to go blurry. All the while the blackness is creeping forward. The pressure is building. Your thoughts are becoming nearly impossible to push out, but the one thought that rings true is just to barrel on dammit, barrel on. I remember thinking that I've heard of this happening to other kids, with nerves, but I don't have those kind of nerves. I was buffallo bill for god's sake.

And then the teacher appeared at my back. I don't remember seeing her get out of her chair, or cross the room, or the surprised look of the students that I now notice. I can't help but think, "oh boy, now I'm forever reduced to 'that kid who almost passed out in speech class.'" She led me to my seat and then somebody, a guardian angel sets a bottle of water before me. I think she asked if I was ok, but my only thought is still "I have to finish my speech, I can't take this bad grade."