I was in the seventh grade when I first considered killing myself. My grandmother and I were at the Orpheum theatre and while she was peeing, which she frequently did on account of giving birth to five children resulting in her infamously tumultuous bladder, I stood at the top of the staircase, looked down and thought “jump”. I did not in fact, jump, but every time I cross a bridge or stand on a crowded subway platform I think the work “jump”.
Perhaps it was the curl in her hair or the way her love felt like a threat that made me resent my grandmother. She was kind. She was good. She was always cold, hoarding sweaters like she was smuggling a smoked ham. Still, I can’t account for my bitterness towards her.
Sometimes she took me to church. She’s a good Catholic. Did I mention that? I’d sit in the pews and pretend to pray when really, I was busy recounting scenes from my favorite movies. She’d recite the Lord’s Prayer while I would quietly mumble Baby’s final monologue from Dirty Dancing. I work at a movie theater now. Sometimes I pretend that I’m an actor researching a role where my character works at a movie theater and sometimes I pretend that I’m Meryl Streep researching a role where my character works at a movie theatre, which is funny, because we really look nothing alike.
I wear my visor with un-ironic pride, which is a rare commodity amongst movie theater workers. You’d think this fact would gain me more respect from patrons but sadly, even the management has failed to notice my enthusiasm. Malcolm, one of the managers, takes a “smoke” break at exactly 3pm which really means he stands on the sidewalk and checks his blood glucose level. Through the window, I watch him prick his finger and wait with anticipation as I sweep up stale popcorn. I imagine Malcolm pulling me into the back room with a ferocious look on his face. Everyone thinks something has happened – that I’ve done something wrong, that I’m about to be fired but instead, we tear off each others uniforms and he fucks me amongst the stock piles of soda and candy and while he digs into me, I focus on the box of Milk Duds rattling on the shelf. Popcorn can be surprisingly erotic. Some afternoons I’m on tickets but I can’t imagine fucking Malcolm while I tear tickets. Believe me, I’ve tried, but tearing tickets takes a certain kind of unbridled focus.
Malcolm doesn’t talk to me much, though occasionally, we share a meaningful look. Or, at least I think we do. Unfortunately, he appears to be gay. This is not an assumption but a fact told to me on multiple occasions by Dana and Tanisha. Dana and Tanisha often work in the same place at the same time as me. To call them my co-workers would be inaccurate. My work habits are far superior. Still, Malcolm’s sexual preference has done little to dissuade my arousal. It’s his hand washing that gets me. Few men are such meticulous hand washers. Also, it doesn’t hurt that he’s got the sort of face I’d like to take a spoon to. Sometime in the not so distant future, when the rest of the world decides to wither and die, we will take refuge in this theater. We’ll duct tape the doors shut, and cover the windows with posters from our favorite movies and we’ll re-enact love scenes until my belly becomes swollen with child and he will deliver the baby with his exceptionally clean hands and though everything else has crumbled to pieces, we’ll have each other and our children and the movies.
The movie is about to finish. I can tell by the way the audience laughed/howled/cried. Also, because as an employee, I’ve memorized the running time of the film. In forty seven seconds, the credits will roll.
You probably think this is a glamorous job, after all without me there would be no Hollywood. The used condom I am peeling off the floor in the third row keeps me humble. Believe it or not, this is my favorite part of the job. Alone in the dark theater amongst the popcorn, the trash, the air conditioning – this is how I stay young.
There’s someone sitting in the back row. He’s fat, he’s ginger, he’s looking at me he’s…
Oh god, he’s touching himself. He’s looking at me while he pulls at his rocket. Should I leave? Should I look at him? I’ll keep sweeping. I’ll turn and bend over, give him a view of the rear.
We stayed like this for a while. He jerked off and I tried to remember similar situations from films I had seen. No luck. Instead, I tried to make my seventeen year old body look nineteen. Eventually he got up from his seat. I pretended to clean but really I just watched him and tried to be the person he was watching. When I left that night, I was still wearing my uniform. I didn’t say goodbye to Dana. I didn’t say goodbye to Malcolm. I winked at Tanisha but she didn’t react to my wink. I thought about him. His t-shirt with the grotesque saying on it clung to his belly. He wiped his hands on that shirt when he walked past me. I shuddered. I couldn’t tell if I was excited or scared.
My mom kept calling me as I walked toward the subway. I couldn’t answer, not now. I had just done a sex thing. A real sex thing and I wanted to live in that. I answered, trying to seem normal, trying not to seem like a person who had just done a sex thing. “Grammy’s dead” she said. “she’s dead” and then I lost service, halfway down the subway steps. I stood at the platform, waiting for the L. I thought the word “Jump”. But of course, I didn’t jump.
Lyndsey Bourne is a recent graduate of NYU Tisch School of The Arts with a double major in Drama and Dramatic Writing. During her time at NYU she saw several of her plays produced at Playwrights Horizons Theater School. Lyndsey is predominantly a playwright though she is an avid reader and writer of all genres. She is in a committed relationship with her macbook pro and enjoys consuming alcoholic beverages of all varieties. Tomatoes are not her friends.