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10:10 a.m. - 2013-02-19
The Shining
A and I watched "Dolores Claiborne" a few nights ago and I liked it. That somehow gave me the spectacularly stupid idea of watching "The Shining."

It was a stupid idea because the crazy writer in The Shining reminds me of my dad, and his wife reminds me of my mom, and being isolated and snowbound and locked up with a homicidal maniac reminds me of my childhood. The way Jack starts talking to his wife in a calm, measured voice with a little smirk and then gets quietly nastier and more threatening (still speaking in a quiet voice at a measured pace) and then blows up and goes psycho-killer crazy -- that's my dad. The way his footsteps -- also calm and measured and dripping with impending violence -- sound as walks down the hotel hallways ... well, I know those footsteps; I grew up with them. I have not lived with that man in 15 years and I hear those footsteps in my nightmares and on clear-blue-sky days when I am least expecting them. I'm sure I'll never forget them.

Jack in The Shining looks like my father, talks, moves and smirks like my father; the "not-all-there" look on his face is my father's. Probably the worst thing is that he wears a my dad's favorite shirt, green chamois (or flannel?). My dad's was from L.L. Bean. I'm guessing that since Stephen King lives in Maine, Jack's shirt in the movie is L.L. Bean too.

I saw The Shining when I was about 15 and it freaked me out enough that I haven't watched a Stephen King movie or read a Stephen King book in the 17 years since. A likes Stephen King and she convinced me to read some short stories, which I thought were good, and watch Dolores Claiborne, which I liked.

I thought if I watched The Shining with her, I'd discover it was cheesy instead of scary, and it wouldn't scare me anymore.

I was wrong.

Well, sort of.

I didn't get scared. I didn't get anything. That's no surprise because most things involving my dad are like that -- my emotional reaction is a big fat empty grey cardboard kind of nothing. If I talk about him, which I don't like to do mostly because it sounds like a big poor-little-me sob story, I never get upset or feel anything. It's just facts and they have about as much emotional clout for me as the gross domestic product of Bangladesh. So, that's what I felt about the movie, and watching Jack in my dad's shirt pace slowly and homicidally down the hall in my dad's shoes.

I felt nothing except that I couldn't breathe.

I felt like someone was smothering me with a warm damp cloth -- I could breathe through it but I couldn't get enough air. I wasn't about to admit this to A. and I thought it was stupid and psychosomatic anyway so I kept watching the movie and telling myself that there was plenty of air in the room and I was breathing it just fine. It kept getting worse and worse, and when A glanced at me and asked me if I was OK, I said I was fine but I just couldn't breathe.

We took a break and I went out and smoked a cigarette (I figured if your lack of air is psychological, smoking a cigarette shouldn't make it any worse) but I couldn't finish the cigarette because really, truly couldn't breathe.

I tried to remember exactly how those footsteps made me feel back when I had enough feelings left to be scared of my dad and The Shining. It wasn't so much that I was afraid of him killing me (I thought he probably would eventually, but a lot of the time I just wished he'd hurry up and do it) -- I was afraid he was going to kill my mom or one of my brothers, and my brothers were just little, little kids. They lived with a monster they were terrified of and little kids shouldn't have to live with monsters. I am the oldest (by 5, 10 and 12 years) and my mom wasn't always present (mentally even if she was phyically) so in a lot of ways my brothers were more like my own kids.

I hated him terrorizing them. I did my best to be a decoy but every time he started his crazy quiet psycho routine -- the warm-up -- I felt like I was watching a slow motion train wreck and there was nothing I could do but watch.

I told A. this (still no emotion, because I didn't and don't have any) and then I told her I wanted to watch the rest of the movie. Then I ran to the bathroom and threw up, quite spontaneously. Then I stared at myself in the mirror and told myself, "Your mind is saying 'yes,' but I think your body just vetoed that plan.'"

So we went to bed instead. I am going to finish that damn movie, but I'm watching it at home, by myself, so I don't make an ass out of myself. Maybe if I watch it enough it will stop affecting me. Exposure therapy, right?



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