From her vantage point, Rebecca can see everyone. The reflected light illuminates enough that she can see their shapes and gestures. The couple directly beneath her think they’re in complete privacy, but she knows where their hands are.
The girl hates her parents, and is consenting to this boy’s affections not because she likes him, but because being with him is an excuse to stay out of the house. The boy isn’t as aggressive as he’s pretending to be, but something in one of these movies told him he’s supposed to push boundaries whenever possible. Neither of them feel safe in the other’s presence, though they are momentarily comforted by the other’s embrace, smothering and protective.
A few patrons are actually watching the movie, some po-mo sci-fi rom-com about love and robots and narrative dissonance. An older couple is using the two hours of movie time to delay their inevitable divorce by two more hours. They don’t dislike each other yet, but they feel no affection anymore and they’ve already had every conversation they could possibly have.
Her phone rings.
“I told you not to call me when I’m at work.”
“I’m sorry, baby, I just wanted to make sure we were still on for tonight.”
“Just text me.”
A few scattered souls have come alone. They distribute themselves entropically, though they came to the theater to participate in film as an event, to feel a part of something larger. Every one of them wishes they had someone close to them, but they separate themselves into makeshift booths and silently judge the couples around them.
If they only knew how pathetic they looked from up here. Rebecca starts the second reel and reaches for another fistful of popcorn.
Although her girlfriend was about to break up with her, Nancy smiled over the table. As long as they could maintain this expression, everything would be fine.
“I really like what you’ve done with your hair tonight,” she said.
“Thanks, I like yours, too.”
The resulting silence prompted them both to take sips of wine. Nancy held hers in her mouth just a second longer before swallowing, as she saw a flash of disapproval cross the face in front of her when they reached for their glasses simultaneously. “I’ve been thinking about what you said.”
She watched the smile grow limp, and tried to hoist it back with her own. “I’ve been thinking,” she repeated, “and I want whatever you want.”
They had had the same boring conversation last night, and had yelled at each other, “I only want to make you happy. What do you want? I want you to be happy!” Nancy couldn’t remember anymore which part of the conversation had been hers. It existed between them and belonged to neither.
“And I want whatever you want,” she heard again, and it played back between them and around them, at every table in the restaurant. Every couple made the same faithful promise, and Nancy repeated it. Hers was the only voice that didn’t sound fake.
Through the dark, Gerard massaged the air around his wife’s body until he found her. She was motionless, almost unaware of him, until his hand landed gently against her skin. The sensation took her by surprise, and she twitched, but his other hand brushed against her hair and smoothed her down.
He could tell she was confused, but that would pass. One kiss later, she was relaxed. He’d just learned how to kiss. With a brief and warm exhale, life-affirming saliva blessed the back of her neck. She was silent. He touched her faintly, so that the dark was touching her and not his hands. As long as she was surprised and mostly unaware of his touch, her mind wouldn’t resist. Women are taught from a young age to deny pleasure, so he had found out.
“Where did you learn to be so sexy?” she asked in slow breaths. He didn’t want to answer, since he had an answer. Instead, he chose mock hubris.
He was born this way.
In school, he’d been ashamed to admit that he had studied for tests. He wanted to be the kind of smart that didn’t require effort. He did study, always after dark, usually alone. Sometimes with a friend. He was a good student.
His hands were magic now. His wife was in another world. She was cheating on him with that world. Someday, he swore, they would make love in the same room.