HE.S.T.A.F.T.A. - Scientific Society of Mental Health Professionals


  • Niki TroullinouAuthor

I can’t recall when this whole thing with the blood began. I am referring to what the sight of blood did to me. Could it be the chicken that my mother used to chop up on the table? Or maybe that slaughtered small lamb that they sent us from the village one Easter. Or it could be that deal with the bicycle. We rented the bike and took it on the road to the Venetian Walls in front of the 7th Primary School, our school. Little Maria the daughter of the renowned gentleman from Macronisos was supposed to teach me how to ride it, so I could leave for farthest neighbourhoods, but the gods of mischief had other plans: I fell and tore up my knee, and blood flowed, and I never did learn to ride the bicycle. Every time the wind changes a small, sneaky ache reminds me of this lovely adventure. No, I don’t think so… Maybe that other fall is to blame – when I fell hard on that step. Some hands picked me up, I could hear heavy running and mother’s screams; then they took me to Mr. Georgiladakis’ clinic. Oh, you should have seen the stiches. They would stich you up with the needle as if you were a housewife’s embroidery. I can still feel that scar on my forehead too with my hand. It is pretty high up, it is not like anybody could see it, but I know it is there. My fingertips know it well. All things considered, I used to be quite prone to fainting. Even that fertile and fertilising blood between my girlie legs… oh I didn’t even want that. Vertigo, numbness all over my body, dizziness, inability to distinguish shapes clearly, and very soon meeting with the ground – if I am standing – or sliding “royally” off seats. It was exactly this kind of heroic fainting that I had in store for my girlfriends at the cinema.

We had gone to Cine Olympia to get inducted to the anti-war climate of our adolescence. The name of the movie was MASH, an American production with beautiful actors and tons of blood. It was Vietnam after all, with machine guns, napalm bombs, jungles ablaze, and best of all the operating room. It was there that the protagonists would cut open and stich, human members of wounded soldiers, with a crazy sense of humour that was truly insane. As for myself, after experiencing all the aforementioned symptoms, I slid quietly and sweetly off the red velvet cinema seat. They found me laying there during the intermission and it would be very difficult to convince the girls to take me with them ever again.

During those strange years of the previous century, girls and boys would dream of leaving behind our small towns with the slightly raised curtains on the windows, the gossiping, the tight control, the religious studies teacher in the classroom, the narrow horizons, and a knot or sometimes a sob in our throats. We wanted to study, to fall in love, in the big city with the broad avenues with the trees and the Acropolis.

My time finally came. With the attitude of success and of my eighteen years, I boarded the boat from Chania to Peiraeus. Then came the house hunting, oh… skirts are short here, and the first nights out. However, in the back of my mind, the concern lurked that: there must not be any fainting here. Your family is no longer around to pick you up. The fear of the sight of blood is prevalent here, so be careful little girl, and avoid trouble.

When our generation started believing that we would change the course of History and that the world was ours to turn on its head when you feel that you have wings on which to fly and you become a bird, you start occupying buildings, stairwells, and rooftops. Then you forget everything, including the blood that makes you faint. “Big deal,” you think to yourself, you lay your fear to rest inside of you, you lull it to sleep, and then the singing comes, singing… more like yelling and you forget everything.

The first occupation in February came to an end with our heads held high. It is in all the newspapers of the time. The students of the Law School of Athens… through the intervention of the Student Committee… following an agreement etc. etc. left the Solonos street building peacefully etc. etc. Yet the next occupation in March was to end differently. Cops, the secret police, military police and snitches had infiltrated the University and were beating on the students starting from the top floors and pushing them towards the bottom ones, down the wide staircases with the iron banister and the hallways with the railing and the mosaic floor. It was violence in all its glory. It was no longer fun and games and singing. The entrance to the auditorium was behind us, as my flat mate and I wrapped our arms around the staircase wall – she, Popi V. did, to be precise – with me standing to her right. To my right was a tall boy, he was holding his head. We were all tumbling down the stairs having been shoved. The boy was holding his head and not me. I wanted to hold him; it was nice to all hold each other. Our hands were warm as they were clutched tightly. I don’t know what I did, but he pulled his hand back and I saw the blood flowing, gushing from his wild hair, like a small red stream, crossing the plain that was his forehead, and I immediately felt that numbness, and the blur in my eyes. If I were to faint now, would I remain here? No… we will all fall downwards, we will be trampled upon, crushed. At first, I did not realize what I was doing. The boy’s surprised look led my thought. My teeth lodged into his right shoulder, the thin layer of flesh that holds the shoulder, the taste of the fabric drenched in saliva, the shocked eyes that filled with understanding… And I never saw those eyes again.

Yes, it was then that I stopped fainting. Half a century without fainting. I once asked a friend of mine who is a doctor, and the “phenomenon” is called vagotonia. It is gone now, it has passed but I still search for that boy. If he happens to read this story, I have saved a glass of tsikoudia for him.

Read the next article:

ARTICLE 12/ ISSUE 23, October 2023

Instead of an afterword

Katia Charalabaki, Psychiatrist – Systemic Psychotherapist
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