Apathy in the Aisle

The man and the woman enter the movie theater and walk up the steps to about the middle. The man steps aside with a flourish of his arm, allowing the woman to pass down the row in front of him. She steps past without a word and finds a seat not exactly in the center. The man sits down heavily in the seat next to her, trying to make a noise and stay quiet at the same time.

The man attempts small talk, the woman responds in kind, and the minutes pass. The man laughs a little too loudly and the woman’s eyes never seem to stop roaming about the room. Every movement, every voice, takes her immediate attention. She uses her eyes much more than her ears or mouth.

The man wants to put his feet up but there is a couple in the seats directly in front of him, huddled close with their arms about each other, and he cannot. He stares at the couple, glaring daggers at their backs. Then he encircles the woman’s shoulders with his arm, taking note of the way the electric light illuminates her restless eyes. She moves a little bit closer, but just to get comfortable.

He starts to say something, but is interrupted by a tall man in a basketball jersey who is shuffling awkwardly across his feet to get to a nearby seat. The man watches the woman watch the jersey pass by. She nonchalantly opens her purse to check her phone, but the man can’t see the screen.

The noise in the theater has risen to a dull buzz. Everyone sitting on the edge of their seats, jittery, anxious for the show to start. The man has been stewing in frustration and regret since they moment they took their seats.

This is the first night they’ve been able to go on a date since the baby was born. The first time they’ve had alone time away from the kids in what feels like forever. And for their quality time they (he? she? the man can’t remember) decided to go see a movie.

The seconds tick by without small talk. They stretch into a minute. Then two. The man cuts another glance at the woman. She is focused on anything but the occupant in the seat to her left. The man decides the time is now. If he’s going to say something, it has to be before the movie starts. He opens his mouth, but suddenly the lights dim, the crowd tenses, and the moment is gone.

The audience exhales and sits back in their seats.

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