When Alan and I go to the movies, it often proves to be a very stressful event. We both cannot stand for movie talking, but he feels much more passionately against it than I do. When the movie talking starts behind us, in front of us, or to the side of us (and these days, sometimes it seems like it comes from all directions, a sort of movie talking surround sound) he will start fidgeting in his seat. The agitation steams off of him, and I can tell that if I don’t intervene soon he is going to say something, or God forbid shush them, and then there will be a scene. Because heaven knows you cannot ask someone to please be quiet (no matter how nicely you might ask) without some passive agressive, louder form of retaliation being thrown at you (or sometimes thrown into your hair. I think I once had bits of popcorn tossed in mine.)
He will start turning and craning in his seat to make eye contact with the offender and the more he moves, the stiller I sit because I don’t want to call attention to us. As I must sit still, I move only minimal parts, so I will throw my arm out and grab Alan’s hand and then squeeze it. He’s learned that this is what he should do if the movie talking becomes unbearable, and when my hands have been wrung and squeezed until the blood has gone from them, I wonder if there might be some other way. But then I think if I didn’t offer him my hand, he would say something all too bold like, “Can you please keep it down? We’re watching a movie.” And then he would get shot. And in my haste to calm everyone down, I, too, might lose an eye. I can’t even imagine explaining how that happened to my mom, so I suck it up and I let him squeeze my hand.
For some reason, I always forget the incredible amount of stress I feel whenever we go to the movies. It must not be that bad if I continue to forget and agree to go with him. Or maybe it’s because I know I have to forget because I know there is no one else who would want to see all these movies with me.
Right before Alan went in for surgery in early June, we went to the movies to catch the latest Terminator. We should have known it was going to be movie-talkers galore, but he was going to have his belly opened up soon to have his tumor removed, so we might have had bigger things on our minds. Away we went and within the first quarter of the movie, I thought Alan might twist a finger off. There was a couple behind us, and the man seemed to be translating each and every word to his companion. Alan turned to give them the death stare. They must not have noticed or else chose to ignore it. He quietly shushed them, but they did not shush. I might have been able to watch the movie through it all, except I couldn’t ignore Alan who was so obviously not able to concentrate, who was fidgeting with the intent of burning a hole in his seat. And how would we be able to discuss our favorite scenes afterwards if he wasn’t watching? So we got up, excused ourselves to the aisle and looked in the packed theater for 2 seats together. We spotted a pair, made our way up the stairs, far away from the loud translating couple, and excused ourselves into the middle of a new row. We had just settled in when the people to our left started movie talking. Alan’s seething began all over, and I handed him my hand to squeeze. I could almost be sure he was going to ask if we could move again, so before he did, I turned and said, “We’re not moving again. And you’re also not allowed to go to the movies anymore.”
After that, we stopped going to the movies, not because I had forbade him, but because he started his stay at the hospital, which has been continuing on for nearly 6 weeks now. Now that he’s not with me nearly as much to be angered over rude movie talkers, I’ve found that I’ve become more vigilant about picking these people out. It’s as though I must be angry enough for the both of us.
This past Saturday, I drove up to the San Mateo library to see Dave Eggers talk about his new book, Zeitoun. It was hot that day, and I was late, so I was rushing. I parked outside, ran inside and burst through the double doors into the room. Frantically, I searched for an empty seat, any would do. But to my surprise, there were tons of seats to choose from, the room was barely filled. I had expected it to be not unlike Michael Jackson’s memorial service in L.A. In my literary world, Dave Eggers is like the Brad Pitt of the movie making world. But then again, that’s just me. I’ve met him a few times (met is an odd verb to use here in that usually when I meet someone, they will remember later on, or, if they don’t, I will say something to the effect of “I think we’ve met before at such and such place” and the other person will take a moment but will usually remember and agree or make a slight revision to the story. But I don’t do that when I re-meet Dave Eggers because that would be sort of creepy to assume he would remember me, so I just keep re-meeting him each time which is fine by me.)
Before sitting down, I bought a copy of Zeitoun and then sat in the third row, not too far, not to close. I peeked inside but didn’t start reading. When I’m really excited about a book, I like to take my time, doing things the right away. I didn’t want to steal short glimpses into the book, but I wanted to take it home with me, pour myself a glass of water and sit, just me and the book, so we could give each other our full attention. It was so new and perfect and …
“Oh, is that his new one? Can I see it?” The lady next to me asked.
I didn’t want to give it to her. I wanted to explain that I hadn’t even really opened it and taken a look for myself yet, so that wouldn’t be right to have her putting her paws all over it, now would it? But then she snatched it out of my hands, so I didn’t get a chance to tuck it away. And that was the first sign of trouble. Her friend came over and sat in between us. Shortly after, Dave appeared and he began talking about his new book. He ceases to stop producing great works, and I almost wanted to run out of the room to start reading it, but at the same time I didn’t want to miss what he was saying. “It’s a non-fiction work, just out from McSweeney’s press as of last week, about a Syrian-American man named Abdulrahman Zeitoun who stuck around with his American wife and children in his adopted hometown of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina only to be abruptly made to disappear by the U.S. government.” (Read more about the book here.)
I don’t know what I expect when I re-meet him, but seeing as how this Saturday was the third time I’d met him, I suppose I was hoping for something different. Like maybe he would say, “Hey! Glad you could make it! I met you at 826LA at that painting party right? Yeah, well, I’ve been reading your blog, and I think I could really use your help on this next project. You like pizza? I know a good place…” But that didn’t happen. Instead, I sat next to the two mature ladies, the only two people in the whole audience to talk to each other, while he was talking on stage. And I know they weren’t talking quietly either, because people kept turning around to give them the death stare I knew so well. I wanted to offer these people my hands, but they were sitting too far away.
Dave Eggers is going to associate me with these talkers and then I will never be asked to get a slice of pizza. I tried shrinking away, just melting into my seat, when all of a sudden, the lady next to me stood up to ask a question. It was about the non-profit he had started, the writing labs found across the country. She wanted to know if it could be a model for tutoring kids on math. He said it could be, that that wasn’t a bad idea and some other stuff, but I was too busy trying to disappear to listen. When he finished, he was about to take another a question, but the lady wasn’t done and she wasn’t sitting back down.
“Point me in the right direction,” she ordered. She ordered. It was very odd and uncomfortable and then I became upset because here I was on a nice sunny Saturday, sitting next to the equivalent of author-talk movie talkers, ruining my chances of Dave seeing me in a favorable light, one in which we could be friends and he could cure cancer.