Saturday, August 11, 2012

What Balloons Do When No One's Watching

When I was about 8 or 9 (early 70s) I seemingly out of nowhere began to suffer from severe headaches and hallucinations. I remember being taken to Dr. Wilcox ( a gruff old bugger typical of GPs of the time) whose best guess was migraines (keeping in mind that it's all a bit hazy for me now). What he could not explain was the hallucinations. I would spend night after night terrified, screaming and crying.

One of the things that terrified me was the feeling (hallucination) of being tiny in an incredibly huge warehouse/train station. I wan't tiny in a normal warehouse; I was normal size in an incredibly oversized space and the feeling was literally overwhelming.

The other feeling that terrified me was the sensation that my hands were swollen and swelling til near bursting. My mother assured/s me that at no time did my hands ever actually swell up, but I would regularly be dumbstruck by the feeling that my hands were going to explode. As a young boy I just didn't understand and that possibly added to the stress.

At some point the hallucinations stopped. I don't remember when or why, and the headaches stopped too. Occasionally, in adulthood, I had both those feelings but they were less terrifying and more intriguing. I wondered why I would every now and then feel those sensations. Interestingly, those sensations were easily recreated in a series of relaxation therapies I underwent in 1992-3 and I began to understand a little more the associations and even the origins of those, that were once, terrifying sensations.

In the mid 90s I had and OMG moment. I heard the lyrics of some music I had been listening to for nearly 20 years. Pink Floyd's The Wall was one of the first albums I bought with my own money (1980) and it quickly became one of my all time favourites. Nothing to do with the lyrics I discovered later, but I did think it a strange coincidence.

When I was a child
I had a fever
My hands felt just like two balloons
Now I've got that feeling once again
I can't explain
You would not understand

A friend of mine (late 90s), a psychology student, suggested the swollen hands thing was actually quite a common phenomenon. But at the time, and even now (after only cursory research) I can't find reference specifically to the imaginary feeling of swollen hands.

Even later on, the two balloons motif took on new meaning after reading Richard Bach's The Bridge Across Forever, a touching story about cosmology and soulmates.

Now, I'm torn. When I see two balloons (quite frequently actually) anywhere I think of both my associations - the Floyd reminder of my childhood terrors, and Bach's representation of soulmates rising up together like two balloons.

Yesterday I was wandering down town, as I'm wont to do, and I saw these. They were meandering along in a soft breeze. I kinda followed them for a while, wondering where they were going, what they were thinking, feeling. What was their raison d'etre? 

I walked slowly along the street, looking over my shoulder. There they were. They crept towards the road. Then. Disappeared. They didn't emerge from between the cars. I crossed the road, waiting for them to show themselves. They couldn't have disappeared. I'd have heard them pop.

But I couldn't see them. So I walked slowly back along the street, looking for them to float out on the breeze. But they were indeed gone, it seemed.

I didn't think balloons had magical powers, but my previous associations with them has left the door open to any possibility. Maybe I dreamed they were there. But I had proof in my hand - my camera. They were real.

And nestled, Comfortably Numb under a car. I didn't want to think about the implications of that.

1 comment:

tracey edwardes said...

Very interesting blog, P !
i suppose balloons are intriguing as they sooo not like us ... they can just float away and go to where ever they like - lucky things, (but they just explode and die if you don't treat them right. )
Once i was astounded to see a blue heart and a red heart balloon captured in my cabbage tree... then they wiggled free and floated up to infinity.
I should have written a poem about that.
A series of escaped balloon photos by you would be amazing...bunch them together!