I’m not a risk taker – never have been. My DNA is a prosaically sensible substance. I’ve never needed a robot to cry “Danger, Will Robinson!” I can do that for myself.
Once, on a tour in Mexico, I climbed obediently with the group to the top of a steep rock shelf hanging out some hundred feet above a cenote. I edged out with the others and watched them plunge like lemmings into the water below. When my turn came, I stood contemplating the sheer drop awaiting me. I weighed the uncertain odds of grievous bodily harm against the heady thrill of the dive. I turned around and climbed back down as cautiously as I had gone up. At the bottom, I slipped into the cenote and splashed about with the rest. So, no, even in this era of the great nothingness, you won’t find me running amok spring break in Miami.
Be that as it may, last weekend I did some more risk weighing, and this time I didn’t climb back down. My friend, Darlene was coming out Saturday. For years, almost every weekend, John and I and Darlene and her late husband, Jeff, would go to dinner and the movies. Afterward, we would discuss our heads off. They were as avid film fans as we were. They were also the first straights to acknowledge John and me as a couple.
I brought up Minari, which I had rented, and told Dar how much I’d enjoyed it. She said she wanted to see Nomadland, as did I, but neither of us felt like paying for yet another channel to watch it.”What if,” she asked, “we actually went to see a movie?” Gasp! We’d each had both of our shots, but was such forgotten pleasure even possible?
I checked the local showtimes. Nomadland would be playing just once on Saturday. I went to the Fandango site to see how crowded the auditorium would be. No one had bought a single ticket! I took the leap and bought two seats at the very back, at the top of the stairway aisle, the ones that John and I always took if we could, for extra leg room. I printed out my prize and just grinned at it for a moment. It was like the beginning and end of my book. We were going to the movies!
Come Saturday, I was wearing the gaudy movie socks that Steve and Johnnie gave me for my birthday.
No one would see them, but I flashed a bit of ankle for Darlene. At the theater, we were far from the madding crowd. Scattered about the auditorium were three other people, all of an age, and keeping their distance.
I wonder if their response to Nomadland echoed ours. It’s a hard watch, which is not to say it isn’t worth watching. It’s the most mercilessly serious movie in about a million years. Loss, bereavement, loneliness and scraping by on your own are dealt with realistically and without let up for two hours.
Darlene and I were the choir, being preached a sermon we’d already absorbed, keenly. At times, watching Frances McDormand‘s flawless performance, I thought, that’s me, wandering around, dowsing for bits and scraps of pleasure now that John is gone. A younger audience, still partnered, might find it more instructive. I was impressed, to be sure, and not a false note is struck, (the delicate motion as McDormand repositions a chair before leaving is painfully telling), but what is being played is two hours of the blues.
Our longed for evening on the town had turned somber. As Darlene and I were about to wend our separate ways into the night, I could have bid her goodbye with a key phrase from the film, “See you down the road,” but the words would have caught in my throat.