Westminster Abbey, March 1991

Hanging Heart 1
By John Brantingham

I got my first migraine staring at Chaucer’s grave in Westminster Abbey. It was a real migraine, complete with an aura that nearly blinded me, and I had nausea and the rest. I was twenty and living away from home for the first time, and the migraine probably had to do with too much excitement, too much beer and too little water, or a food allergy, or I don’t know what, but I didn’t know what a migraine was then, so I thought I was having a spiritual moment with old Geoffrey – that he was communing with me, and it felt significant. It seems ridiculous now thinking back, but it made a sort of sense at the time. Life was different in those months. Everything was different. I had fallen in love and found the British reading room and met people from all over – people who had done things like scampering over the Berlin Wall or hitchhiking across Asia – and every night we drank and talked and read and lived. There are times in life when you read the right book at just the right time or meet the right person who understands you or travel some place that silences you for one long lost breath, and you get it, and you understand for the first time, and all of those things were happening to me, all of those celestial events were going on for me in London right then. It was that moment that I got my first migraine, so maybe it’s not so strange that I felt like Chaucer was reaching out to me from wherever he was and blessing me and telling me that what I was doing right now was in some way sacred.

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