(disclaimer: No children were adopted in the making of this story. I did not become the Angelina Jolie of our local movie theatre, though I did come this close to donning my Tomb Raider outfit and kicking some ass.)
Last night I ditched out and went to a movie. Just about as frequently as I ditch out on the readers of this blog, I ditch out on my family. I may be a 31 year old mother of two in Mississippi, but I still have a pulse and sometimes I need that pulse to not be matched by the beating pulses of so many that share my DNA.
I should develop some kind of code to indicate that I am heading out, will be back later, and not to come looking for me unless you see the bat signal.
Yeah, I went to see The Dark Knight.
Now for the trite: Christian Bale was stellar. The entire time I was watching him appear out of nowhere to save the day and the girl and the city, I totally had "I Need a Hero" playing in my head. Who doesn't love to be saved?
Heath Ledger. I am such a sucker. Count me in for all of the glowing reviews of his performance. He was breathtaking and, sure, I felt an impulse to perform the sign of the cross when he first took the screen. My ability to suspend my disbelief and be consumed by a performance is second to none.
I don't write movie reviews so much as I write obsessive stalker notes.
The Dark Knight was amazing, engaging, engrossing, and inspiring. Yep, I just fell all over myself and gushed "inspiring." The message in this film was precise and clear: You sometimes have to be the fall-guy in order to be the truest hero. The Dark Knight was an exercise in altruism and it was fascinating.
Go see it. The end.
The showtime I caught was the last showing of the night, so it was after midnight as I made it out of the theatre. I took the side exit directly into the parking lot, one of those exits that is at the end of a corridor of theatres. As I was pushing through the exit, I stopped to listen to the movie still playing in the last theatre by the door. It was incredibly loud and sounded painfully violent, so naturally I had to poke my head in.
A trip to the movies would not be complete for me unless I stole at least 15 minutes of another movie. Because screw you, Ben Affleck.
The signs above the entrance doors indicated that the movie was either WALL-E or Hellboy II: The Golden Army. By the sound of the screaming, I put my money on Hellboy. Or technically, not my money.
It was one of those smaller screening rooms where you walk up a long straight passage bordered on one side by a high wall blocking the view of the stadium seats. A 31 year old mother on the run could stand in that passage and watch a movie without being seen by the people in the seats.
So could a small child huddled under a blanket on the floor.
In the soft red light of the floor runners in the dark passage, a young boy sat, knees drawn up in front of him, fleece Spider-Man blanket wrapped around his small body and over his head so that only his face peeked out, with eyes wide and fixed on the screen ahead of us.
He couldn't have been more than four.
Welcome to hell, boy... you should not be here.
I walked slowly toward him, stopping in view of the screen but perhaps four feet from where he sat. He looked up and I smiled and shrugged, indicating that "Yeah, I'm sneaking a movie, too." He quickly averted his eyes and leaned away from me a little.
But then he looked back. And then again. And again. Until he lowered his blanket behind his head just a little.
I gently sat down on the slanting floor beside him, close enough to be able to whisper to him if I leaned in but not so close that I could intimidate him with my presence or even appear as though I was with him to a certainly soon-to-check-in mother rounding the wall.
Minutes passed and no mother checked in on him. Was his guardian sitting on the other side of that wall? Why weren't they checking on him? Were they that selfish about their movie viewing habits that they didn't care that he was clearly scared? Not to mention that it was now close to 12:30 at night.
Judging whoever had allowed him to be here was not going to get me anywhere and I couldn't exactly take him out of there, so I just watched the movie. With him. Stealing glances at him every now and then to gauge how frightened he was by the epic battle playing out on the screen above us.
He was indeed small. Delicate frame and fine black hair. Dark skin and dark eyes. Surely Mexican. Ever since Hurricane Katrina, the Mexican population along the Gulf Coast has exploded. He would poke his feet out from under his blanket every once in a while and reveal his little plastic sandals, but nothing more.
He stole a glance at me and smiled. I leaned over and whispered, "Wow, this is a scary movie, but she is really pretty, huh?" He smiled but said nothing.
"Hey, is your mom here?"
"Wow, he's really a crazy guy!"
"Ew, that's gross. Yuck, huh?"
Smile. Roll of the eyes.
We watch the movie. We watch Hellboy.
I moved my wallet near the wall, my drink beside me, and stretched my legs out in front of me. Indicating that I was in this for the long haul, too.
When he would look at me, I would try to give him a reassuring smile and sort of shrug in a "this is crazy, right?" kind of way, but I could never tell if what felt like reassuring on my face was actually coming off as creepy Stranger Danger in his eyes.
And then he laid down on the floor and rolled around. Shooting me smiles and giggling.
The puppy had revealed his belly.
So there we sat, in a dark passage with frightening images of demon spawn towering over us, and we finished watching the movie.
The lights came up, a few people straggled out, and I gave each and every one of them a look that screamed, "I'm just keeping your kid company, you bastard. No wait, your kid. No. Oh. Okay, your kid."
I am Bruce Wayne about to turn into Batman. Someone is going answer to this.
And then I ran out of bastards.
I looked at my little friend and smiled. He hadn't said a word. Finally, he stood up, draped his blanket over his head and face, and went barreling down the passage with me pulling up the rear, without a clue what to do next. I expected him to keep barreling toward the concession stand or some room where his theatre-employee parent was surely waiting, but instead he flopped on the floor outside of the theatre doors.
Okay, so, um, huh.
In the light of the hallway, our situation began to feel ridiculous.
"So, is your mom here?"
"Ah, do you speak English?"
Grasping at my high school Spanish, "Habla Español?"
"Hmmm, is your mami aquí? Aquí? (insert hand motion indicating the floor) Aquí?"
Good Lord, I was now pulling from old episodes of The Bob Newhart Show.
"Are you three? Tres?" I hold up three fingers. I'm thinking Dora the Explorer now. Keep it simple.
Nods. Laughs. Says something that I'm pretty sure means "crazy white lady" in Spanish.
By the twinkle in his eye as he says it, I'm almost sure this is not something I would have learned on Diego.
Maybe five minutes have passed and not a soul has walked by and my friend is still rolling around on the floor.
Do I turn him in to the lost and found? Do I bust whoever it is that must be working here and using these movies as babysitters? It is well after midnight and this movie was not, in fact, WALL-E.
And then, like a bizarre scene from a movie that I did not audition for, small Mexican children begin simultaneously exiting the theatres around us. Three of them from three different theatres and they are all headed our way.
Ayuda me! Please tell me one of them speaks English.
They all smile and lift their eyebrows. I am on a stage and my audience awaits my first line.
"So, um, I found him in Hellboy. I couldn't just leave him there because, well... so I just watched it with him."
The oldest girl speaks. "Yep, he always thinks that movie is WALL-E. (motioning to my friend in the Spider-Man blanket on the floor) Tell the lady thank you."
Mumbles something that again sounds suspiciously like Spanish for "crazy white lady."
An embarrassed look passes his apparent sister's face and she nudges him with her foot and shushes him quickly. Ah, I knew it!
"Sorry, he's, uh, saying ugly words."
Yes, I know.
So much for my stint as the Dora-educated Hellboy-watching Dark Knight of the movie theatre. With great power comes great responsibility. And almost uniformly no great respect or gratitude from the citizens of Gotham.
To you, I ask: From the moment you saw him to the moment you left him, what would you have done?