This movie has been going on for so long that time has obscured the original premise to the point of absurdity. I sit in the dark, half-full cinema watching my image onscreen go through the cycles of working, searching, writing, drinking, loving, falling, breaking.
I admit there’s a lack of cohesion in the film’s storyline. The one connecting thread is the theme of unconnectedness. Of moving through scenarios misunderstood. Of playing an impostor in most situations. Time passes. Years. Good intentions are swallowed, heartbreak silenced, memories smothered. Most days it’s just about staying afloat. The nights become increasingly sleepless while the days merge one into another like an unending dream.
In my own defense, there’s passion and awe. But the effects translate poorly on film, even with artistic close-ups or moody monochrome. There’s my face in flattering light, gazing at sun-drenched ruins in Rome. There it is again entranced by waves pounding a tropical coastline, or watching a lover in Tokyo disappear down serpentine streets. These events play out to a swelling of dramatic, melancholy music but with no quotable dialogue, no moving resolution.
Several people in the audience walk out during a scene of conflict with a former love where harsh words are flung, the kind of words that cut. They make me cringe in my seat even though they’re my own. I hear a woman in the audience huff, “She’s so cold and insufferable. What’s wrong with her. Doesn’t she ever learn anything?”
“You can’t even sympathize,” her companion agrees. “Who’s the director, anyway. This whole thing is a drag.”
I’m injured but say nothing. Go ahead and walk out. I don’t need approval. This is mine. Nobody in the audience gets it, that’s clear, judging from all the private chatter, noisy sharing of snacks and texting going on.
Then your voice speaks to me for the first time. It’s during an especially dull office scene. You murmur from the seat behind me in the theatre, your voice so quiet it’s like you’re talking in my head. “This is where I save you from that horrible meeting.”
“What?” I turn my head towards the shadows behind me but your voice stops me.
I watch the screen. My expressionless face amongst haggard coworkers whining about deadlines at a conference table. I notice a new message on my phone: Meet me at the bar in 15.
I excuse myself with a concocted story and leave the office. Grab my coat and purse and rush through the city’s afternoon tumult to our bar a few blocks away. (Wait: MY bar, not ours.)
The bar is deep within a majestic old hotel, offering muted, wood-paneled refuge from
the brash demands of the outside world. Only a few customers this time of day, most of them financial district professionals guarding their drinks with guilty faces. You’re seated at the end of the bar.
I know you right away although we’ve never met. Something about your demeanor. Your angry hair, your nostalgic scent. Sad eyes that I can’t look at for more than a second without my insides caving in.
We exchange unsure smiles. “What are you having?” you ask.
You order drinks for us. We touch our glasses in a wordless toast and drink quickly as if afraid to look at each other. Then I follow you up to your room.
In the theatre, your voice again from behind, almost a whisper. “Watch. This is where I pin you against the wall and kiss you.”
My breath catches in my throat as I watch this happen onscreen. The remaining audience are suddenly a little more attentive.
In your room, you pin me against the wall by the chest with one hand and unbutton my blouse with the other hand. Our kiss goes on and on. Your hand slides down the contours of my chest, inside my blouse. Behind closed eyes I imagine you watching me watching you in the dark, our illuminated images hovering ghost-like above us.
“Now you’re going to unbuckle my belt.” Your words melt in my ear, coming from behind like a caress.
I open my eyes. Up on screen I pull away your hand and reach for your belt, eyes locked on yours. I slowly unbuckle it, undo the button on your pants, untuck your shirt. Our smiles have shifted from uncertainty to knowing.
“Use me.” Your words come from behind me and from the screen at the same time, echoing the other.
Heat rushes through my body and burns my face. “But how did you know?” My flustered voice rises. Someone seated to my left shushes me in annoyance. I lower my voice.
“What was going to happen.”
I can hear you shrug behind me. “I just know sometimes. Don’t you?”
“Yes, but this is my movie.”
Your low laugh is tinged with unease. You pause before replying. “This is my movie, not yours.”
“What?” I laugh in disbelief. “No it’s not. So who’s making this happen?”
We fall silent and watch. Your mouth saying something, maybe my name. My hands unbuttoning your shirt. The audience, finally, receding into darkness and silence.
I wonder if we see the same thing. I want to turn and watch your face but I don’t move. Breath held, hovering on the edge between worlds, afraid a jarring motion will make it all vanish. That’s okay, I can be still for a long time. One thing a lifetime of longing teaches you is patience. Behind me, your presence is quiet but palpable.
Do you look the same as onscreen? For that matter, do I? I’ve been here for so long in the dark with no one to tell me.