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From: New England Review
Volume 33, Number 4, 2013
pp. 131-134 | 10.1353/ner.2013.0012

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Crowded five-screen movie theater, a throng of us being herded into a waiting area before we’re let into theater number 1, as they call it, people checking their phones, others muttering and shifting on their feet, others staring ahead impatiently, stretching their necks for any sign of forward movement. Looking ahead, I see him, walked right past without noticing him or his companion, a woman much younger than he is and way too good looking to be seen in public with the likes of him, most likely snowed by his presumed superiority, his all-encompassing knowledge and awareness. Did he see me? He’s not looking back at me and flashing his sneer, his look of jocular arrogance, pitying me for being visible. Opening day of an acclaimed spy thriller has brought him here. He’s probably read the novel the movie is based on, analyzed its weaknesses, and made his appearance to see if the movie has corrected the errors he’s detected or enlarged upon them. The actors should stop in their tracks and invite him onto the screen, he’d make a better spy than they do, or maybe they should pause and wait for his rewrite.

A restraining rope is lowered, a raised arm waves us forward, and feet begin to move. We file through the dimly lit tunnel to the theater, jockeying for position at the turn, the empty seats seeming to pull us toward them. Where is he, keep a distance, can’t get sight of him, don’t make it obvious you’re looking, climb to the back row, look up, if he’s there turn into a lower row. They’re not there, take a seat, scan the theater, the woman’s shoulder-length hair might be easy to find. I see them, other side of the theater, halfway down, many people getting settled, almost no chance he’ll take a look back. But someone in front of me lets out a loud laugh that provokes another loud laugh from the person in the next seat, and a couple of heads angle toward the sound, though not his head. Don’t be distracted during the movie by his presence, mind on the story, complex clues coming our way. He shall not be called by name within the cranium and specific situations shall not be remembered. Don’t rehear them, resee them, relive them. Don’t remember his voice or his words, let nothing in the movie remind you of him. Sit here for two hours, wait for him and his companion to get up and leave, then another five minutes, time for them to go to the restroom and make their way out.

Is he likely to show up here again, will I worry that I might run into him whenever I come to this theater? Will I return to my apartment and imagine his nose flaring at me as if my presence contaminates the air passing through it, as if his nose were capable of sniffing out inferiority in other people? Will I be able to pretend to forget the ridicule, the sneer? Will his superior nose and voice appear in my sleep and stir me awake? I could approach him and his companion after the movie and offer my handshake in a formal and respectful manner. At the first inkling of superiority out of him I could tell him off. But I’d be creating a scene, branding myself as a raving boor. The manager could order me to leave the theater, and when would I feel comfortable enough to return?

The previews are running, most of which I’ve seen several times before at this same theater, when his companion suddenly rises with her purse tucked under her arm and walks out. Has she had an epiphany? Has she witnessed an exhibition of nostril expansion that has tipped her over the edge with him or is she simply on her way to the restroom? The idea of wondering if she’ll return amuses me for a moment, but then it occurs to me that I could be missing an opportunity. Should I hop up, head for...

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