The man with the big soda sitting at the end of the aisle shushed them.
“It’s starting,” whispered Sandy. “We can finish talking later.” He filled his mouth with popcorn and turned to the big screen, never to return to her again.
At least, not for a full 2 hours and 47 minutes, which is how long this epic saga was meant to last.
In that moment, she was sure of two unsettling things.
One — Sandy can fit more popcorn in his mouth than he can in his hand.
Two — she was going to have to carry the entire weight of the argument they left unfinished for almost 3 hours, or else she would lose this fight by forfeit.
They were only 3 minutes into the movie and she was already confused. The scene was dark and shadowy and the dialogue was fast and whispery and she had no idea what was happening.
Why did moviemakers do this? She knew why. To trick you into watching and listening with all your good intentions and then, when you least suspect it…
A blinding sky shot of the searing sun and thunderous fighter jets screaming across the screen and into your brain.
It was meant to disorient you, all in the name of cinema.
So manipulative. What a cheap way to get someone’s attention.
Sandy was into it. So was the guy that shushed them. Shush Guy was drinking a very large soda — 128 ounces of liquid regret. He was wise to occupy the aisle seat. How was he going to hold it all in?
She thought about what she was going to say at the end of the 2-hour, 47-minute hiatus. How was she going to hold it all in?
None of the words from the movie made sense. She tried listening more closely. Someone was upset the giant candy bars were so expensive. Wait. That wasn’t the movie. That was coming from the lobby. She could see the snack counter too, somehow.
And she heard dogs barking. A Rottie-poo and a Chihuahua were at each other’s throats. They were all the way down the street. Their owners were screaming.
Sandy didn’t seem to notice. How could he just sit there and be oblivious with all that barking and screaming?
How could Shush Guy be so thirsty?
She brought herself back to the movie. One of the characters was apologizing for something. It was a sign from the Universe. These were the words she wanted — no, the words she needed — to hear. She waited for something inside her to move. It didn’t. The words didn’t feel right, maybe because they weren’t coming from Sandy. But, even if they were, she wouldn’t have believed them anyway.
She looked at the screen.
She looked into the screen.
She looked past the screen.
She looked deeper until the screen became a mirror and she could see everything clearly except the stranger sitting next to her in the dark.
She grabbed Sandy’s half-eaten popcorn and threw it at the screen. The audience gasped. Sandy gasped.
At first, she was embarrassed, but then she realized they weren’t gasping at her.
They were gasping at the woman in the movie, who had thrown a lamp at some guy’s head. Now the woman was crying and the guy was bleeding and screaming. He didn’t know it, but he was letting out all the hurt his mother made him feel when she had his dog put down when he was eleven, for some untold reason she felt he was too young to understand. It was his first experience with betrayal. And he had cried and cried for days after that, sometimes years apart. And now he was bleeding all over this perfect white rug and the lamp was broken.
Wait — was this in the movie or was this happening 3 blocks away in the trendy apartment complex near the arcade with games from the 1980s she liked so much? They had really good hotdogs there. She wished she was there instead of in this theatre of nonsense. But Sandy didn’t like retro arcades. Or hotdogs. How can someone not like hotdogs?
The unmistakeable sound of a straw gasping for hope at the bottom of an empty cup echoed from the aisle seat.
It was over. The last ounce had joined his 127 brother ounces in their quest for freedom and Shush Guy was already headed for the restroom.
The credits rolled. The lights turned on.
“That was great!” Sandy was overjoyed. He kissed her for some reason. Then, they took a selfie and posted it on Instagram.
The credits rolled and rolled.
They rolled right over her.
They kept rolling, off into the horizon as they left the theatre to get arcade hotdogs.
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Image from Canva