On the condition of vertigo by Jamie Etheridge

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The spinning takes hours. We start and don’t stop. The world goes on around us. Around and around us silken fabric swirls. I swell up, into the vortex, a tornado of nothing but sound and swirl. I couldn’t stop even if I wanted. 

I don’t know who I am any more. This monastery. This mountainside. We spin and in the evenings, we drink hot tea and eat oatmeal. Then we sleep and in my head the spinning goes on, through winter and spring, through green shoots of wet grass pushing up from the muddy earth. Through watery tears and weeding the kitchen garden in the morning sun. 

I’m lightheaded. From spinning or the one bowl of oatmeal a day, I’m not sure. Dashiel left. He kissed the tip of my nose when I said I was staying. Two monks—or maybe they are called clerics—stood on either side of the door, their eyes on the floor, waiting. Maybe their minds were spinning too, the world going on around them. 

Dashiel left and I stayed. I need this, I told him. Not just a three-day sabbatical. Not a mini vacation. But movement, meditation, revolving endlessly. 

The monks wear yellow and red robes, they pray and chant. I pray and chant and spin. The spinning is what matters. The spinning opens me up. Or the world opens up to me. I’m still not sure which. 

Today is Monday or Wednesday or maybe September and I can’t stop even if I wanted. The symptoms of loss are greater than the condition. Dashiel left and I stayed and neither of us could say her name. Her pale blonde hair. The half-moons of her tiny fingernails. Her lips still and white—gelid memories. 

At night I lay on my cot, really a narrow straw-filled mattress, single blanket, and imagine her spinning in the stars, whirling through space. I close my eyes and see her looking down at me—the cold, stone floor beneath my hands; the empty space, untraversable, between us. Sudden sensations include dizziness, wooziness, utter desolation.



Jamie Etheridge’s writing has been published or is forthcoming in JMWW, X-R-A-Y Lit, Burnt Breakfast, Eastern Iowa Review, Every Day Fiction, Inkwell Journal and Wild Word magazine. She can be found on Twitter at @Lescribbler.

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