I bought one ticket to Doctor Strange, and I went into the theater 15 minutes early with a copy of Vanity Fair.
As I walked in, I smelled a man sitting in the first row of the stadium seats - body odor, days of it, and bad breath. Homeless.
I picked the rearmost row of the first section of seats - I like to be close to the screen.
As I settled in with my magazine, I smelled him again. He'd moved down to my row, and was now sitting just two seats away from me. Oh boy.
As I flipped through my magazine, I saw him unzip his backpack and pull out a stack of plastic-wrapped magazines. That better not be porn.
He said, "Excuse me? Have you seen this movie yet?"
I pretended I hadn't heard him.
He asked me again, and I looked over at him. The plastic-wrapped magazines weren't porn. They were, of course, comic books.
I replied, "Nope, first time." It had, after all, opened today.
I gave him a quick, closed-mouth smile.
He said, "This is my second time!" And flashed a huge grin, a number of black gaps in his smile. I said "Cool," and returned to my magazine.
A few minutes passed. I wasn't reading my magazine. I was thinking about this man.
I stopped talking to him for two reasons: Because whenever strange men talk to me I am waiting for either a proposition or a sales pitch, and because he smelled bad.
In the silence I'd made for myself, I reviewed everything he'd said to me and everything he'd done, and all of those things went into one of two columns: Reasons To Avoid, and Reasons To Engage.
Reasons to Avoid:
He moved to my row after I'd already sat down.
He is sitting between me and the exit.
He smells bad.
He might be trying to sell those comic books.
He's a man.
Reasons to Engage:
He hasn't tried to talk to me once since that first attempt.
He accepted my shutdown and didn't press it.
He saw that I wanted to be left alone, and he left me.
He's sitting there flipping through the comics that he packed in his backpack, probably this morning, probably carried them around all day, and he's grinning.
He seems really excited to be here.
He probably wants to share this experience with somebody.
I closed my magazine, turned to him, and asked, "So, are those Doctor Strange comics?"
They weren't. They were 20 other comics starring 20 other characters, the only one of which I'd ever heard of was The Punisher.
He told me all about them. He told me all about his collection. He asked me if I read comics. I said no.
He asked me if I'd seen the Marvel movies. I said I had seen a lot of them. We started talking about the movies.
We agreed that Avengers: Age of Ultron was really thought-provoking. We both loved Guardians of the Galaxy because the heroes were so scrappy and marginalized. That was his word, marginalized. When the lights went down, he leaned over the seat and whispered, "There's a Guardians 2 preview for this movie... you're gonna love it."
The light on the movie theater screen reflected in his glasses and I saw his lenses were strong; the air behind them swam. I saw his lenses were clean.
We watched the movie without talking. As soon as the end credits rolled, he looked over and flashed a thumbs-up. "So? What did you think? Wait, wait, wait, there's a middle credit scene and and end credit scene. They're AWESOME."
We watched those too.
I told him that if he liked Benedict Cumberbatch he should check out the BBC's Sherlock series with Martin Freeman. He said, "Martin Freeman? OH! He had a part in Captain America Civil War! I liked him, man."
We walked out of the theater together. He still smelled terrible, but I probably do too. I recently switched to organic deodorant (a fear-based choice after I learned something about PARABENS, but I have to make another fear-based choice back to Lady Speed Stick because I'm afraid that people will think I'm homeless, too, the way I smell by 3:00 every day.)
We got to the entrance of the theater and I stopped by the ticket booth. He stopped, too. "Are you walking out?"
I smiled. "Yeah, I am. But I don't really know you, so I'm not going to walk out to a parking lot with you. I mean... I've gotta be safe."
He smiled too, and smacked his forehead with an open hand. "Of course you gotta be safe. Well..." and he finished his thought about how you can't really trust the critics and I should really see Batman vs. Superman and Suicide Squad because the worlds were really well-rendered, and then he said, "It was really nice to meet you Katie."
"You too, Keith."
He walked off toward the bus station.
I waited a few minutes, then walked to my car.
The world is full of nervous people who need space to feel safe.
The world is full of nice people who want to connect.
The world is full of interesting people who stink.
Have a good weekend, everybody.