The movie began. I thought sitting through all those trailers would ease the tension. I thought getting up to use the bathroom right before would quell my nerves. Neither did. I came back and kept looking at the seat next to me to find you and only you. Now it was us and only us and I was sure you’d get up and leave since I hadn’t said anything once we sat down in the theater. But you stayed. We were friends. Friends needed more friends to “hangout.” It was clear we weren’t hanging out. We were on a date. Funny how I didn’t realize that until the lights dimmed.
We had been here before. Perhaps we were always here. Every now and then we watched movies at your apartment. Our friends would cram into the living room, huddling in front of the screen. That was our little theater. Cinema for the broke and the broken. We took pleasure in escaping our lives for two and a half hours. You and I always sat next to each other. We were the ones pleading to watch another, and after that, another. But our friends didn’t have the stamina like we did. One by one they’d part, dwindling down until it was just us. Movies had to end. With you, it never felt like they did.
How did we end up in that theater? Rather, how did we not end up there sooner? Our circumstances so blatantly obvious. So many text messages back and forth until the early hours of the morning. Dozens of posts on social media that we unintentionally hijacked just to exchange a few more words. Us continuing to talk at parties long after they’d ended, veering us in that awkward gap between wanting to stay and knowing we should go, so our conversations never quite ended. We put them on pause only to resume the next day.
We were holding hands then. We hugged each other goodbye, never quite letting go because our arms were still clasped on each other’s waist, your lips so perilously close to mine, me foolishly believing we were just friends. We waited until the eleventh hour before we inevitably parted. Because leaving meant not seeing each other, and not seeing each other meant finding another reason to see each other again. Perhaps that’s what those movies were all along.
Earlier that week, you sent out a group text asking everyone if they wanted to see a movie. They bowed out, saying they weren’t interested, not this time. You told me as much, the disappointment so clear even through text, because it meant we weren’t hanging out. I said screw it. Why don’t we just go? I should have phrased it better. Because I was asking you out and didn’t know it.
In the middle of our date that I didn’t know was a date, I turned to look at you. You were spellbound, the movie all but impossible to ignore. I saw the way the movie reframed and refracted in your eyes, how beautiful you looked while looking on. Unbearably, unutterably beautiful. Something about being in that theater made everything feel safe and intimate. Like I could disappear. Like we could disappear. Or everyone else in that theater could disappear along with the entire world and all that was left was you. You were my movie. I would have stayed in that theater long after the credits rolled.
I wish I had taken a moment to pause during our relationship. During all the movies we’d watch and watch hopelessly together. During all the disagreements, the fights, the crying and the heartbreak. If only I had taken a second to look at you, really look at you as time went on. How naive I would’ve looked, believing we could go on. It wouldn’t have changed anything. But maybe it would’ve made what was going to happen a little less painful.
I don’t remember that last movie we watched in our apartment. I only recall me begging for you to stay. Just one more movie. I wanted to go back to that night in the theater when everything was so open to possibility, when there was no baggage to complicate what we had. Perhaps I just wanted to go back. You agreed to stay, even though you knew it was a bad idea. We couldn’t do this anymore. We had to make this separation real. I didn’t want it to be real, so I put on a movie.
I was so sure you’d choose to stay with me in the end. I thought we could start over, pick up where we left off like a film in intermission. Maybe the real movie hadn’t even begun. But I was fooling myself. A movie was just a movie. And we were two people sitting in an empty theater. So when the credits rolled and you didn’t say anything, I couldn’t fault you for getting up and leaving. The movie was over.