Moving on, and down

Dear Uma: Inspired by Cee and Erma, their story of moving on from past traumas, I have begun to watch all those DVDs that I have avoided for years.

Dear Uma:

Inspired by Cee and Erma, their story of moving on from past traumas, I have begun to watch all those DVDs that I have avoided for years.

Waterworld was the first, and although it took three days of watching it a little bit at a time, I did make it all the way through and at noon on the third day I segued immediately in to The Abyss.

The Abyss was so fascinating, the aliens so pretty, that I managed to watch the whole thing in one very long evening, though I did have to do some fast-forwarding through the part where Lindsay drowns on purpose. Jeez! That was tough, even watching it at hyper speed. I did not close my eyes during that whole scene, except for a few tiny moments when the water covered her face. I took a long break after that and went outside to pretend smoke.

Pretend smoking is something I have recently taken up and it is proving to be a good, though admittedly odd and not for public consumption, release.

It works like this: I go to a designated smoking area, which is anywhere outside of the trailer, but usually behind the wood shed. Behind the wood shed because I have discovered Pete’s infernal surveillance cameras don’t reach there. If he were to see me pretend smoking it would mean the rubber room for sure. Behind the wood shed is where I go when I need to pee outside now, and it is also the place to be if one wishes to eat large bags of BBQ flavoured Lays all in one go while reading People magazine, borrowed from the library.

So, I unwrap a pretend fresh pack each time because the pretend cigarette tastes better when it is fresh, and the act of opening the package prolongs the anticipation of the pretend satisfaction. I have nailed a plastic bag to the wall of the wood shed so there is a handy place to put the cellophane and the little bit of foil and the card that comes in each package and which I have never ever read, come to think of it.

There is also a lounge chair behind the wood shed, and an umbrella for when it is raining. I put out a small table just this morning, so that now I have a place for the ashtray I bought at the local thrift shop and for my mug of tea, or glass of tequila, depending on the hour.

Pack opened, I pull out a cigarette, always from the inside of the left side – don’t ask, don’t know, always done it that way. I put it between my lips, in the middle of my mouth, not to one side or the other; I have never liked that one side look, it appears vaguely thuggish.

The cigarette is lit with a black Bic, kept on the table, held in the left hand. After the first drag, the cigarette is transferred to the right hand where it remains for the remainder of its being smoked. I butt out with my right hand, and the butt is usually somewhat long; I find I don’t need as much of the tobacco these days; maybe I will soon be able to quit pretend smoking.

When I go indoors, if I have been pretend smoking, I brush my teeth and spray myself with Febreze.

If I pretend smoke in the truck, I chew gum (Dentyne cinnamon) and hang a new air freshner from the rear view mirror.

The next DVD was The Big Blue; I am sad to say I overreached my new level of tolerance for things Big Water on this one. I had to pretend smoke two cigarettes in a row and I didn’t go back to the adventures of the free diving guys until the next day.

I did however go internet exploring for more information on the sport of free diving because, apparently, there are real people in real life who do this thing, this diving down to great depths without any breathing apparatus. It is termed an “extreme” sport (well, yeah) and there is such a thing as the International Free Diving Competition, with the current record being held by Loic Leferme (the man) at 171 metres and Tanya Streeter (the woman) with 160 metres.

The movie is based on the real life story of Jacques Mayot who held the world record for a long time, was fairly mystical about the whole sport and who killed himself at the age of 74. There is lots more but you have probably for now learned all you wish to know about free diving.

During one of the breaks, I went to pick up the mail and there I saw one of the local nurses. Detailing my pretend smoking habit to you in this letter made me realize there might just be something a shade too odd about it and that maybe I am getting over my fear of Big Water only to replace it with a new kink in my custard.

I described to the nurse a behaviour somewhat similar to my pretend smoking, crediting a ‘friend’ with possession of it, and asked if she knew what it might be and if there was anything about it that would demand intervention. She immediately came up with OCD and said it could very well prove to be problematic to the point of interfering with my friend’s life, and definitely to her well-being.

Thoroughly frightened, I went to Dr. Google as soon as I got home. There were lots of OCD references but as is my wont, I went directly to “symptoms.”

OCD is indicated by uber cleanliness and avoidance of germs. Hah! I will eat my sandwich even if it has fallen to the ground, and once I even devoured a chocolate bar with a torn wrapping that I found in the glove compartment of the truck. No fear of germs here, and definitely no excessive cleanliness. Daily showering was listed as a warning sign, and though I do not indulge in it myself, I know a great many people who do, including you, my dear friend.

OCD sufferers also spend an inordinate of time doing housework and have a passion for orderliness. Hah! I am so not there. They also suffer a fear of fire, and of being attacked, which of course we all do but they carry the fear to extremes, constantly checking the stove to see if it is shut off, and testing doors over and over again for lockedness. I have had more than one little kitchen fire for various reasons, including forgetting to shut a burner off, and I rarely think to lock a door because I lose keys regularly. Still full of calm reassurance that I am clear, I read on.

The victims of this strange illness also are known to count everything all the time. Well, counting is not something I do for any reason, having had severe numerical issues all my life. Just as I was about to declare myself entirely free of OCD I read the last in the list of symptoms, ‘intrusive sexual thoughts.’

Uh oh, I think I might have those. The article, while going into lengthy detail in subsequent paragraphs concerning the other symptoms was strangely inarticulate on the subject of intrusive sexual thoughts. What exactly would constitute “intrusive?” Forced to guess, I would think it might be when one had a great many sexual thoughts at inappropriate or inconvenient times. How many would be enough to be considered too many? Before I could try to count mine, I also began to question inappropriate and inconvenient, wondering exactly whose standards were used to determine what was not only too many, but inappropriate and inconvenient. Then, before I made myself unhappy in attempting to figure it out, I simply stopped, shut off the computer and went out and soothed myself with a pretend cigarette.

In keeping with my new philosophy, I am now about to move on – into The Big Blue.

Gurgle gurgle,


Heather Bennett is a writer

who lives in Watson Lake.

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