I try not to blink too often. I like to test myself to see how long I can go without blinking. It’s not easy, I can tell you. All those muscles around the eye that control the movement of the eyelid get really stressy if I don’t allow them to do the job they were designed for. My right eyelid is already twitching after less than two minutes. The left one seems to be more relaxed about the exercise, but it’ll succumb eventually. It always does.
I used to try holding my breath as long as I possibly could. To be perfectly frank, I was fucking useless at it. Forty-plus years of smoking plus a dose of emphysema screwing-up my lungs do not make for good breath-holding-exercise success. That’s when I hit on the non-blinking exercise instead. Don’t matter how much I smoked to keep my eyes open, does it?
The secret to it is to find a spot to concentrate on, fully concentrate on. A blank wall is certainly best, which is the conclusion I reached after weeks and weeks of experimenting. I tried a photo of my dog, but there were so many cute things about him that made me smile and triggered so many lovely memories that my eyes kept filling with tears, for goodness sake. I mean, I was bawling like a baby at times! No, a photograph I would never recommend.
I tried an ornament, a small brass figure of a nineteen twenties dancer. It is a beautiful object and quite valuable I’m told as the dancer is bare-breasted.
Apparently in the antiques market that sort of thing is much sought-after by collectors of figurines and the like. There’s no chance of me selling it, though, mainly because I like it so much but also because it was left to me by a dear friend who won it in a competition that I came second in.
I probably don’t need to tell you that didn’t work as a concentration aide, either. Too many strong memories linked to as many strong emotions made looking at the damn thing too damn painful; after a very short time. No, I had to go for something else.
The painting is oil-on-canvass and by what the trade calls a ‘gifted amateur’, someone who signed it ‘R K Tullis ‘33’. When I found it in amongst a load of other pictures and stuff I bought as a job-lot at auction, I knew immediately that I was going to keep it. I looked up the artist on the WWW, but he or she never cropped up as an artist of note. I wasn’t bothered. The beach scene on a cold day speaks to me every time I look at it. The cloudy sky, grey choppy sea, the rippled wind-washed pale sand and the single solitary figure sitting in long coarse grass to the left of the picture draws me into the peace and solitude. I wanted to be there, too.
That was no good either. I could feel the cold breeze off the sea and the way the grass swayed as sand was scattered amongst its roots. I felt the isolation and solitude of that figure just sitting there, looking out to sea. Hell, I was that figure. Looking at the picture invoked such strong feelings of despair and loneliness in me that I could not stare at it for too long before I felt my mood slipping into the blackness again. I could not afford for that to happen again.
So I hit upon the blank wall idea. It’s as flat and as plain and as boring and uninteresting as a sheet of plain white paper. It is perfect! I sit comfortably in my armchair, a cushion at the small of my back to stop it aching, which it does after fifteen or twenty minutes due to me injuring it when I was a kid just starting out at work. I have a pillow off my bed under my butt to add a little extra padding. The armchair is lovely and comfortable normally, but if I start to feel things that might distract me from not blinking my attention might waver and then… Well, disaster.
I don’t want that.
I want to be able to sit here until I have kept my eyes open for the longest time possible. I would, if I could, like set a new World Record for not blinking. I need all the practice I can manage, though, as the latest record is an amazing forty-one minutes bar one second. Wouldn’t it be cool to beat that?
So, here I am, going for that record. How long has it been? I’ll have to look to the left to the digital stopwatch I bought especially for this exercise. Careful now…
Oh, shit! I blinked. I blinked when I saw how long I had managed. Four minutes and twenty three seconds! That’s a long way short of the record… but on the plus side it IS a new personal record for me. I’m happy!
Author Notes: The world record mentioned in the story IS genuine and true.