The Night of the Blackout
The lights in the movie theatre had just blacked out. The screen was not in view. I could not even see it from where I was sitting, despite being six rows up from the front. And there was an emptiness inside me as well, as I was sitting all by myself, or so I thought at the time. This night’s theatre experience had not started in that way. I had walked in as part of what I believed to be a couple. But it had become a dark night for me in every sense of the word. Still, I did not feel like getting up and leaving. The movie had not finished, and I did not have a lot of energy at that time. I decided to just sit there eating the few remnants of popcorn I had in the bag that I had been holding my whole time there. I would wait until the situation changed in some way. It could only get better. At it turned out, it would.
Before the Blackout
My original plan for the evening had been to go see a movie with Mary, my girlfriend for about a year, so that we could spend a few hours together enjoying each other’s company. We hadn’t done that for too long a time. The movie was called ‘Killer Cooking.’ I had chosen this particular movie as it had received good reviews in the paper, had Gordon Ramsay in a cameo role, and I thought that Mary could relate to it as she had a job as a cook at a small but prosperous local restaurant.
However, the plan had not directly led to any great joy. Mary had kept herself quite distant from me throughout the movie, even though she was sitting right beside me, our legs almost touching. Our relationship had pretty much deteriorated over the last few weeks. Sitting side by side in the theatre that night was not doing anything to change that sorry situation. There were very few words exchanged between us. She just said ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or similar unsatisfying one-word answers to the questions, and comments that I sent her way about the movie. That included the especially scary bits like when the villain wielded the huge carving knife with blood dripping from it like he had been cutting raw meat. I even tried telling a few jokes about the characters, for example, calling the hero chef the ‘creped-crusader,’ but I got no response. Well, actually I did get a laugh, but it wasn’t from Mary, but from some woman behind us, who seemed to really like the joke.
I gave up on talking to Mary around the time the movie was half over. There certainly was no touching shared between us, except for when I had put my right arm around her when we first sat down in our seats. She quickly shrugged it off, with the loudly stage-whispered ‘don’t, Ralph, don’t’. So I retrieved my rejected arm in a hasty retreat.
About an hour later, Mary rather emphatically told me that she had to go to the bathroom ‘RIGHT NOW,’ which seemed strange to me, as I was the only one of the two of us who had purchased and slurped down a rather large soft drink. She hadn’t even eaten anything from the big bag of popcorn I had bought for us to share, and held in my hands throughout the movie. Barely a second after her declaration of intent, Mary crawled over me both awkwardly and deliberately, then sped up the aisle, almost running to the back of the theatre like she really had to go.
After what I guessed to be about fifteen to twenty minutes of her absence, I wondered whether she was ever going to return. I began to think that maybe she had walked out of the building, grabbed a taxi and went back to her home, leaving me alone in the dark. Given how disconnected our time had been together in the theatre, it would not surprise me if that was what she had done.
The movie was coming to a close, the hero and the villain about to confront each other, when there was a loud mechanical noise, like a train coming to a sudden stop. The screen went blank then black and the lights on the side of the theatre shut off barely a second later. All of us in the theatre were in total darkness. I was at a loss as to what I should do. I just sat there stunned, hoping that the power would go back on, and I could at least see the end of the movie. I had been engaged in the story.
Then I felt a tap on my shoulder, and heard a voice say, ‘Your girlfriend left the building some time ago. I saw her leave when I came out of the women’s washroom. I think you’re a funny man and deserve better. I loved the ‘creped crusader’ joke. If you don’t mind a little company, would you like me to come sit beside you? I promise I won’t trip over you, or yell ‘don’t’. I’ll use the light of my cell-phone to find my way”.
I muttered an emotionless “okay”. Then I watched her moving light as she got up and left her line of seats to come down to mine, and then walked closer and closer to me. When she sat down, she shone her light on my face to get a good look at me, and then shone it on her own face, so I could check her out as well. She sat down and reached for my left hand, and I let her hold it. We said little, but didn’t really have to. After about ten minutes of happily sharing the silence, the touching and the no-longer lonely dark, the power came back on. We watched the movie to the end, and both applauded when the hero dressed in white disarmed the knife-bearing villain with the English accent by wildly wielding a cutting board. At the end of the credits, we stood up still holding each other’s hand, left the theatre together and went to a nearby coffee shop. Every dark night has its dawn.