It’s empty. Just the way I like it. Some people may enjoy going to see a movie with friends. It can be quite a lot of fun with all the pre and post movie analysis, breaking down the trailers and talking about your favourite parts. It’s not my first choice but I see the appeal. I much rather prefer to quiet immersion of giving your entire focus to the magic on screen. That’s why I like a matineé. Keep the packed midnight showings, give me something between nine and eleven in the morning when there’s no-one else there.
The trailers haven’t even started, I like to be early. I get to pick out the best seat, get all my things laid out. I pretty much take up three seats, one to my left for the snacks and the other to the right for my jacket and bag. Makes sense why I prefer an empty screening. While I wait on the lights to fade and the trailer to begin I swipe through my phone to keep myself entertained. It does a decent job at holding my attention, so much so that I don’t even notice I’m no longer the only one in the room.
First thing I notice is a shuffling behind me. Whoever is there takes there place behind me, one seat to the right. I’m a little annoyed, I had high hopes I’d be here alone. The smell of popcorn filters through the air, not from me of course, I’ll always pick nachos at the cinema. There’s something else though, something laced within that traditional movie theatre scent. It’s familiar but I can’t place it. It’s sweet, but not sugary. Natural, flowers perhaps, but more exotic. I keep my focus on my phone as they get themselves comfortable. As the figure behind me removes their coat a gentle breeze carries the sweet familiar scent. My heart flutters and I suddenly realise why it’s so familiar. I’m afraid to turn around and confirm my theory. Seconds tick slowly as the facts jumble together. Can it be, no it can’t be, but what if it is, what do I do? I choose to freeze, my hand clutches my phone, the screen light goes out but I don’t move. I’m afraid to attract attention to myself, not even sure if what I’m thinking is right. Is the person behind me the very same girl I’ve had a major crush for these past few weeks?
Taking a deep breath to reset, I’m here for the movie; I shouldn’t let my mind play tricks on me. My phones power to distract me has been diminished so I turn to put it into my jacket pocket on the seat beside me. My heart leaps to my throat as a mellifluous voice breaks the silence. It was the song of an inquisitive siren, beckoning me to her attention and all with the use of a single word. She spoke my name softly but with trepidation, maybe not convinced it was me. Yet her voice was unmistakable. There was no doubt in my mind that this was the very girl I’d spent the past few weeks dreaming about. Nervously turning my head to meet her gaze, I felt a smile breaking out on my face. I couldn’t help but feel ecstatic that she was here and even more so when I saw she had the same smile on her face. Her eyes seemed to light up when I turned to say hello, as if to say she was happy that her guess was correct. I’m sure my puppy dog eyes were telling her a very different story. I had no idea she’d have been interested in seeing this movie. Not that I would have asked her to come see it with me or anything, it’s just a nice thought that we shared a little more in common.
There were still a good few minutes till the trailers began. We spoke about our excitement for the movie; she seemed impressed with my ‘fanboy’ like knowledge. She could have been being polite but we were both enjoying the moment so I didn’t dwell. More people started to filter into the room. All sitting far apart from each other so I was still happy enough that I wouldn’t have my matinee experience ruined, the girl behind me clearly an exception. I told her about my cinema ritual, wanting the room to myself. She didn’t share my love of seeing a movie alone. Apparently this was her first time and she was a little nervous. I made a stupid joke about first times and the response was quite unexpected. Now I’m sure that an empty room echoes more than a full one but when she laughed it filled the room. She clearly didn’t expect it and got a little embarrassed. Not as much as I did for making the joke, but she seemed to like it. She asked if I would mind her coming down a row and sitting beside me. I barely had a chance to answer before her things were in her arms and she was on the move. I would never have said no but it’s probably a good thing she moved before the answer, it saved me from a shy awkward response that might have ruined the moment. I moved my jacket over the seat on my left, placing my snack on top of it and freeing up space for her to sit by my side.
She gets herself settled and I try to settle my racing heart. My mind goes blank. I literally can’t think of a word to say that doesn’t sound idiotic, praying for the trailers to start so I don’t have to talk. Luckily she didn’t notice the nervous quiet, or maybe she did and was better at breaking potentially awkward moments. She talks about movie snacks, making fun of me for paying the obscene cinema prices as she pulls snacks from her bag. I try to defend myself but she’s on the playful attack. It calms me down, feeling more at ease and enjoying this refreshing bit of company. I don’t even mind that the room is starting the fill. I get a little self conscious as she laughs, I don’t want to anyone else to hear my bad attempts at flirting. I’m pretty sure that’s why she’s laughing as loud, she likes the nervousness. I finally win our playful argument but telling her everything was paid for on a gift card I got for my birthday. She wasn’t happy with that; there was no way to come back at it. She conceded defeat my hitting my head with her unopened bottle of cola. She smiled mischievously. My mind again went blank, that smile made her look utterly adorable. Staying on topic I managed to find a thread to pull on and keep the conversation going. Innocently I started to ask about what kind of movie snacks she likes when she’s watching movies at home.
Jokingly she replied “Why? Have you got something planed?”
My heart stopped. She giggled, not an attention grabbing laugh, this one was softer and flirtatious.
Wit escaping me I responded “I always have something planned” and instantly regretted it.
There’s flirting and then there’s being creepy. If she wasn’t blocking my way I would have ran out of the cinema in embarrassment. Her cute smile began to fade. Milliseconds torturously passed as her face contorted from that pretty smile into something new. I felt my whole body react, hoping I hadn’t made her uncomfortable. You had one chance and as per usually you said something stupid and ruined it. Well done you! Yet the moment wouldn’t be as it seemed the face she eventually formed, after what seemed an eternity, was one of intrigue. The lights began to dim around us and the curtain slowly opened to reveal the full screen in front of us.
Before the rumble of the surround sound filled the room with noise she teased me with sultry eyes and said “Oh, is that a fact?”
As the screen came to life and the room filled with sound she pulled in closer to me.
Grasping my forearm gently with a soft squeeze, she whispered into my ear “To be continued” then sat comfortably back in to her seat.
The adverts began but I wasn’t paying attention, my mind was lost to thoughts of the girl mere inches from me. The next fifteen minutes would go by in a blur. My heart was racing, my chest tightened, I felt dizzy, my head was throbbing as I tried to focus. I tried to hide my trembling breathing, watching her out the corner of my eye. What did she mean? I don’t know if I’m putting too much of my own wishful thinking onto her words but I can’t concentrate. I can’t focus on the pictures on the screen, she has my undivided attention. Her gaze is fixed to the big screen, not even broken when opening the ‘pic n mix’ of sweets she’d brought with her, seemingly enjoying the trailers. I think I’ve lost my appetite, my stomach is doing summersaults and I’m afraid she’ll see my hand tremble if I try and lift anything to my mouth. I sit staring ahead but seeing nothing, my mind consumed with that question, what did she mean? She was talking through the trailers between mouthfuls of popcorn. Commenting ‘yay or nay’ on the upcoming releases. I don’t actually think she was talking to me; it seems to be this movie going ritual if you’re with someone.
“That looks good”, “Really!? They gave that a sequel!”, “Oh I can’t wait for this to come out!” her running commentary on each new trailer shown.
I got a gentle jab from her elbow for not responding.
Trying to keep my composure I sheepishly turn to her and with a playful roll of the eyes I say “Yeah me too, now shush you.”
She threw a bit of balled up wrapping paper from one of her sweets at my head and went back to watching the trailers. Whenever we’ve been around each other in the past she’s always been a force of nature, always had that adorably playful spirit but this is very different. At least to me it’s different, but I try to convince myself that I’m reading way too much into the situation. I’ve heard that the moment you try to understand a woman’s motivations, is the moment you accept madness into your life. All this over analysing is definitely driving me mad. Before I knew it the movies rating card was on screen. I hadn’t taken in a single thing from the adverts or trailers; my thoughts were devoted to her. I don’t imagine I’ll have much luck paying attention to the movie with my heart firmly lodged in my throat.
The lights dimmed once more as the title cards for the movie appeared on screen. I had yet to pick up the nachos resting on the chair beside me. As the opening credits rolled I placed them onto my lap to settle in for the movie. No sooner had they landed in my lap, I was faced with a cinema thief. The very same girl who moments earlier tried to convince me I was a fool for buying cinema snacks, was now happily helping herself. Mouth full of tortilla chip and salsa she gestured her ‘pic n mix’ towards me. All I could do was smile at her brazen but charming thievery, I shook my head quietly. She responded with a petted lip and big wide eyes as if to say sorry. I’m not sure if she meant she was sorry for her previous thievery or for the fact that she wasn’t finished stealing. As much as it made me smile, her smile was far bigger. Playfully proud of herself and playing the adorable card to great effect.
I had wanted to see this movie for a while but it couldn’t fully capture my full attention. I’d get pulled into the story but never for very long. I’d hear a rustle of paper, a cough, a laugh, or simply notice her moving in her seat and I’d be pulled back to the reality that she’s right beside me. I was catching all the broad strokes but my mind was elsewhere. I had two hours to figure out what I was going to do, two hours to decide what I was going to say to her when the movie was over. I normally like to go grab some lunch, if I haven’t stuffed my face with snacks of course. Do I ask her to join me? I could do it under the guise of let’s talk about the movie. No, that would be a bad idea, how am I supposed to talk about a movie I’ve not even paid attention to. It’s incredibly frustrating, I’m not paying attention because all I want to do is get back to talking to her, but I can’t talk to her because the movie is still on. My attention like my nachos had been stolen by her and I’d much prefer to hear her stories than the ones on the big screen.
Getting close the end of the movie there’s a big action sequence that’s keep a hold of my attention. It’s nothing I haven’t seen before but sequences like this are made for the big screen. There’s a romantic subplot that’s been running through the course of the movie and during this action scene it’s being paid off. Something brushes against the back of my hand. It’s very soft and extremely gentle. It barely grazes my skin but it’s enough to spark a rush through one arm and down the other. The hairs on my arms stand on end, not in shock but in confused excitement. I know what it is before I look. I remember the sensation but it’s been a while. Without moving my head, without giving an indication I’ve noticed I look down to see her hand. Her fingertips glide slowly across the back of my hand, never venturing too far, never the chance of fingers interlacing. There’s no smiles, no giggling, no playful flirting, this is something serious. I pull my arm down the rest, closer to her. I tilt my head just enough to look at her, but her eyes stay fixed to the screen. Her hand however remains against mine. I fight the urge to move my arm; an itch begins to form at my wrist and travels to my shoulder. I know it’s not real. I know it’s a reaction to her unexpected caress; it’s the fearful trepidation that something might be happening. As the sequence draws to a close she moves her hand to take a drink giving me the opportunity to scratch away the itch. Afraid to reciprocate her caress and knowing that the movie is soon coming to a close, I finish what’s left of the nachos in my lap. Forcing myself to eat in order to justify not returning to the arm rest to continue what she’s started.
The movie entered its epilogue, the action sequence had been the big payoff for the audience and now the characters wrapped up their adventure. I however had no idea what happened in those last moments. It was worse than when the trailers played, I blacked out from the world around me. I wanted the movie to end. I was willing it to end; I’d barely seen any of it though my daydreaming and I didn’t care about anything that was happening. The movie couldn’t get me invested in the characters or the story; I was far more invested in my own. In a matter of minutes I’m going to have to face a reality that terrifies me. For the past few weeks I’ve been dreaming of winning the attentions of the girl sat beside me. Now that I might have them, I have no idea what to do. Thoughts are frantic, I need an answer but I want it to be perfect, she deserves nothing less. My mind is a jumble of contradictions. It’s real, no it’s not; she’s clearly interested, no it was an accident; be bold, just don’t come on too strong. I can hear a throbbing in my ears and it makes me think all the blood in my body is rushing to my head, trying to help me find an answer. If only this stupid movie would end, it’s the waiting that’s truly killing me.
The lights stay dark as the end credits roll. A sign for any regular movie goer that you’ve got a post credit sequence to hang about for. Normally a lovely little addition to make a fanboy squeal, today it’s a torturous wait. Neither of us move, eyes still locked on the screen. Some of the other people start to make their way out, obviously not fans of the larger universe or they just don’t know what’s coming. It’s an odd feeling of accomplishment, you know something that the other movie goers are unaware of and that’ll make your experience better. To be fair to them, at least they got to watch the entire movie. I’m utterly disinterested with it; I have my own post credit plans even if I still haven’t thought of them. It’s the quiet last seconds of ignorance and as blissful as they are, I need them to end. The room empties till we’re one of a few remaining in our seats. We sit quietly, neither of us making any gesture to move. As the final title card rolls by we’re rewarded with a wonderful tease to the next movie in the series and the lights slowly fade up, softly illuminating the room.
No longer able to hide in the darkness my nerves take over, smiling uncontrollably as I turn towards her. I give her my honest appraisal of the movie, the little of it I saw. We gather our belongings as I continue to tell her how impressed I was, bluffing my way through a ten second review. She wasn’t looking at me, I don’t know it’s intentional. Maybe just focused on putting on her coat, I don’t know, she’s just seems a bit more shy than before. It’s raising my panic, I should never have arm, I knew it was an accident. She wasn’t stroking my hand at all. Feeling rather foolish but still trying to maintain some sort of conversation I asked what she thought of the movie.
“Honestly…I sort of spaced out for most of it. I had other stuff on my mind…” she replied averting her eyes brushing a strand of hair behind her ear and nervously smiling
Stunned by her admission all the confusion melted away. Inches apart for the past few hours, watching the same movie and going through the same internal torture. It’s safe to say it was the longest movie either of us had ever seen.
“I really wasn’t paying much attention either, I was a little distracted by…other stuff…” telling her I knew exactly how she felt.
I suggested that we get tickets to see the next showing that was starting in half an hour. She suggested lunch, somewhere its okay to talk. It was a much better idea, I did really want to see the movie properly but I don’t think a second viewing would have done any good today.
“Lunch sounds great, but will I be allowed to eat what I order?” I asked, gently mocking her for her earlier thievery, getting us back to playful flirting.
With lightning fast speed she grabbed my bag out of my hand and skipped off out the screening room before I even had a chance to react. This is why I love a matineé, you get to see a movie the way it’s supposed to be watched, without having to deal with all the crowds and you still have a full day to play with. A day I fully intend on spending with the girl who stole my nachos, my bag and my heart.