I opt to go see All About Steve. I figure a comedy is just what the doctor ordered. Plus Bradley Cooper is fucking gorgeous. After my shower, I'm feeling good. I'm freshly scrubbed and exfoliated, free of sweat and grime. As much as working out and perspiring feels good, the clean way I feel after showering is exponentially better.
Slipping into fresh clothes, I pull on a pair of my jeans that are now so baggy that I can yank them on without having to unfasten the button or unzip them. I should be impressed and happy with myself, but I'm not. Even though I lost the weight, I'm pissed at myself for gaining it in the first place. And it's not like my body doesn't have more room for improvement.
I pull a Blackhawks shirt over my head. I haven't watched the team play, or even seen a hockey game for that matter, in years. My dad and I used to watch every game religiously, but hockey just didn't hold that same appeal to me since he passed when I was sixteen. Still, I proudly wear the emblem and root for them, even if the only player I can name on the team is Pat "Twenty-Cent" Kane.
Then I loosely French braid my hair into a sloppy mess, but all I care about is getting my hair out of my face. I'm going to be spending my night in a dark theater, so it's not like I need to dress up for anyone.
My stomach is furious with me, panging with hunger. I glanced at the clock, and it's only about quarter til six; I guess coffee, cereal, and an apple just isn't enough to tide you over until dinner. There's no food in the house—at least, what is here is all Gina's and she'll kill me if I eat it and don't replace it quickly. I spy fat free cottage cheese; I don't know whose it is or how long it's been in our fridge, but I eat a few spoonfuls straight from the container to tide myself over til the movie. I'll get M&Ms or something from the concession stand and treat myself.
I check movie times on my computer, and All About Steve starts at seven. I've got half an hour to kill, and I write a reply to my mother as I waste time. I thank her for the recipe, knowing I'll never make it. Too much cheese, and cheese is now my enemy. She'd argue that diets are all about moderation, and that I shouldn't try to cut out everything, because I'm not doing myself any favors. I'll just binge if I keep denying myself anything good. But I know that I'm better off going cold-turkey; once I get a taste of something good, I engorge myself. That logic applies to my life in more ways than just diet.
Clicking send, my inbox notifies me of a new e-mail, one that makes me groan. Another message from John? "What the FUCK?!" I scream to no one in particular. He's been bombarding me left and right all day. This is his second e-mail, and he's called, too.
My finger hesitates as the cursor hovers over the link. I should just delete it without reading it, but I can't make myself do that. But I can't read it, either. Right now, I can't make myself make the executive decision.
So I take the middle ground and leave it there, unread, in my inbox. I flip the cover of my laptop down, grab my plain black hoodie and wrap it around my waist, and start the eleven-block walk to the theater. My mood is spoiled for the evening again. Why do I let him do this to me? He's five hundred miles away, and he can still make or break my attitude.
After I get to the plaza where the cinema is located, I buy my ticket and then sit outside, enjoying the cool September weather while it lasts. Gina tells me that Pittsburgh doesn't really have a fall. She says the seasons are: summer, almost winter, winter, and still winter. The summer's been pretty nice so far. Not too hot, but not overly cold. Temperate and perfect. I people-watch and make up stories about those who walk by, either to go into the theater or over to one of the restaurants or stores. Mostly I tell myself that they're all faking their apparent happiness.
At six thirty, I head into the theater, buy a bag of M&Ms, and get my ticket ripped. I'm the first one in the room and have my pick of the seats—which is just how I like it. My favorite place to sit is right in the middle of the theater: center seat, center row. That way, there's not too many people behind you to talk and distract you, not too many in front to get up and walk around and block your view.
For a while, I'm still the only one in there, but then the place slowly begins to fill with people. A couple here, a group of giggling girls there. Until a bunch of rowdy guys come filing in. To a romantic comedy? They're loud, and I instantly know they're going to ruin this movie for me. They'll probably talk through the whole thing. Maybe if I go to the box office now, they'll give me my money back, no questions asked.
I try to focus on the screen again and figure out the answer to one of those trivia things, but they're all about recent movies that I haven't seen, because I haven't been to the cinema since I moved to Pittsburgh. Those guys are still standing by the entrance, scanning the rows to see where they want to sit and discussing it like the rest of us want to hear.
"No way I'm sitting up front. It'll hurt my neck."
"Let's go all the way to the back."
I roll my eyes. No one gives a flying shit where you sit. At least, I thought I didn't care, until I meet the eyes of one of them. That guy. Talbot. He recognizes me and then takes the steps two at a time until he's at my row. "Let's sit here, guys."
He walks all the way over until he's right next to me, taking the seat to my left. "Hey, Gym Girl."
I sneer. More seats are empty than full, and he wants to sit next to me. And he thinks he knows me. We meet once, and he's smiling at me like we're best friends. I just want to be left alone. "Hey, Crippled Guy."
He laughs. I said it to make it clear that he should just leave me alone, but it's got the opposite effect. "Isn't that the point of physical therapy?"
I shrug and notice the rest of the guys are pouring in around us. A blond one and his incredible jaw takes the seat on the other side of the cripple, and a couple of dark-haired guys sit on the other side of me. I grit my teeth and stay in my position, not moving my elbows from the armrests, even though these guys are massive and I'm feeling squished. The dude beside me, talking in some choppy English, is especially huge, and I find myself leaning toward Talbot just to have room to breathe.
Not that he seems to mind. In fact, he takes it as an invitation to keep talking to me. "So, do you always come to see movies by yourself?"
"I'm not by myself anymore," I mumble, fighting to maintain my bubble of personal space.
"I find it's best to see movies with someone else, so you can talk about them later. You'll thank me later for keeping you company."
Oh my God, did he just wink at me? Who does that? "I doubt that." I came to the movies for an escape, and now I can't even get up and find another seat if I wanted to, because I'm effectively trapped in this chair. The lights dim and I allow myself to relax. I think it means they'll shut up so I can at least forget I'm surrounded by them and get sucked into the action on the screen. But they don't. Especially the one with the poor English.
I tolerate it for the first fifteen minutes, but after that I'm annoyed beyond belief so I finally speak up. "Yo, Cripple, can you get your friends to shut the hell up? I'm trying to watch the movie."
He nods and stretches his arm around the back of my chair, whacking the foreigner in the back of the head. The foreigner looks over at Talbot, who shakes his head and says, "Shut up, Geno."
Geno scowls at Talbot and rubs the back of his head, but he shuts his yap. Talbot doesn't move his arm from the back of my seat, so not only do I have to squeeze into the center of my chair to avoid touching either guys, but I have to hunch over so his arm doesn't touch my shoulders. I stay this way throughout the whole movie, and my back and neck hurts.
Halfway though the viewing, I remember about my chocolate treat, and I rip open the bag, stretch out the fabric of my shirt, and dump the colorful candy onto the material. I start to eat them one-by-one by color. First the red, then the orange, proceeding through the rainbow. It's how I always do it; I don't know why, but I have to eat them this way.
Talbot reaches over and takes a couple. First, I'm mad that he thinks he's ingratiated himself with me enough that he can eat my fucking M&Ms, but I'm even more mad that he's taking blue, green, and brown ones out of the order in which they must be eaten. Second, he touched me. He didn't do it on purpose, but his fingers rubbed against the fabric of my shirt and I felt the sensation across my skin as he took my candy.
I grunt in disgust, and he raises an eyebrow but never peels his eyes away from the screen. My one night of escape, and he's utterly ruining it.
I stay quiet throughout the rest of the movie. I paid the outrageous charge to see this damn flick, so I tried to take in as much of it as I could. When the credits finally begin to scroll vertically across the projection, I stand and stretch, in moderate pain from my work out and hunching over for the past two hours. As much as I want to make an immediate escape, I can't step over their large bodies and run for the exit.
"It's only nine. On a Friday. What do you boys say we stop out for a drink?" the one with the jaw says.
"Physicals at eight, Gronk."
"So? Talbo, you don't have to go. Please tell me you're up for a nightcap, eh?"
Talbot looks to his right, at me, and smirks. "No. I'm rehabbing tomorrow. Another time, Staalsy."
The rest of the guys begin to file out, and I follow behind them, trying to hide behind their height and width, but he doesn't let me get away so easily. "So, what did you think of the movie?" I look at him and try to convey with my eyes that I don't want to talk to him. He's like a cat; they always know when you don't want them around, and that's when they weave through your legs and look for attention. "Come on, I told you that talking about movies is the best part about watching them. Did you think it was funny?"
"To be honest, I was kind of distracted by the brutes around me to really appreciate the cinematic value of Sandra Bullock's Oscar-worthy performance." I cross my arms and put my weight on one leg. What else do I have to do to show him I want to be left alone?
The blond one, whatever his name is, looks me up and down. "Only you, Talbo. Good luck with that," he laughs, hitting him in the arm as he turns to leave. I see the grimace on his face as blondie hits him on his left side, his bad side.
"Oh, are you okay?" I ask, feeling bad for the times I called him Cripple.
He rolls his shoulder in its socket a few times. "Oui." So that's it—he's French. What the hell is a Frenchman doing in Pittsburgh, of all places? The pain washes off his face. "The guy doesn't know his own strength."
I feel bad that he's in pain, but I still don't want to talk to him. I head for the exit, but he's hot on my trail. The cool autumn hair hits my face, and I slip into my hoodie, but not before he sees my shirt.
"Are you a Blackhawks fan?"
"No," I spit out sarcastically. "I just wear their logo because I like to make fun of the plight of Native Americans."
He shrugs. "You could just be a Kane or Toews fan."
"No," I sigh. He's trying to be nice and genuine, and I'm just being a bitch. "I'm from Chicago."
"Oh. So you're visiting Pittsburgh?"
"No, I live here now."
"Then you need to become a Pens fan."
"I don't really watch hockey anymore," I tell him. "Not since my dad died."
"Oh. I'm sorry," he apologizes.
I feel bad that I embarrassed him. "Don't worry about it. You didn't know." I start for East Carson Street to make my trek home, but when he notices I'm not heading for the parking garage, he asks if I want a ride. "And how do I know you're not some creeper that is going to attack me once we get into my neighborhood?"
"Sometimes, you just have to have a little faith in people."
I snort. Faith in people? Please. "I'm nearby. I'll risk the drunks, thank you very much."
He shakes his head. "Can I at least get your name?"
"No," I call over my shoulder, walking quickly across the street to the other side of the intersection, pulling my hoodie tighter around my body to keep me warm. I make a right onto East Carson Street, heading towards home. The street is beginning to crowd with the party crowd, and soon I'm engulfed in the people, lost in anonymity again, leaving behind the Frenchman and his promises of finding the good in humanity.