Who would have thought? It was a simple Diet Doctor Pepper, consumed along with popcorn and a chocolate bar at the Hyland Cinema in London. It’s a ritual I’ve enjoyed for many a movie.

The thing is, I hadn’t had a carbonated beverage for two months – a remarkable stat given my decades-long history of Diet Coke consumption. What’s the problem with a reminiscing slurp of no-calorie sweetness?

Halfway through the movie, there was a pressure on my pants. I reached down in the darkness and felt my belly pressing against my belt. “What is that?” Had I gained twenty pounds as the story got rolling? And the pain was huge.

Many years ago, I had gone on regular visits to a family restaurant in Lethbridge, Alberta which featured prime rib and yummy desserts. Sheltered by a white linen tablecloth, I’d often undo my belt and unzip. Anything to release the pressure. And now I did the same in the Hyland. Darkness covers all sins.

Still the pressure mounted. I tried to remember where my appendix was, and came up short in the knowledge department. Gosh, it hurt! And the film was meandering along so slowly. Had I ruptured something? Were my insides about to be deposited on the outside?

Finally the curtain. As the lights came on and folks streamed by me to the exits, I sat serenely, my arms and hands crossed over my middle, obscuring any view of a languishing belt. So slow was the retreating crowd.

When it felt like the whole place had emptied, I stood up, fixed my hands in pockets to keep my pants erect, and stumbled toward the front entrance. I knew that it’d be dark outside. Except it wasn’t, and several cars were passing in front of me in their exiting. Hastily I zipped and redid the belt, hoping that drivers had to be concentrating on neighbouring cars. My garments intact, if not my psyche, I headed to the sanctuary of Scarlet.

As I sat down, my bloat drowned any well-being. The strategy emerged of slow motion homeward travel. I couldn’t imagine controlling my vehicle at 100 kilometres an hour. So I picked sideroads that would allow me to creep. A serpentine route followed and I finally breeched my front door. Then the bathroom, offering copious amounts of Gas-X. Lie down. Breathe. Continue living.

The pain continued for an hour, and then sleep took over. No ruptured appendix in the morning.

So … dear body. You don’t like carbonated beverages. A new normal has emerged. And the cans of Diet Coke in my fridge will be offered to stomachs who know what they’re doing. As for me, I’ve moved on.

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