In a smooth, deep tone I respond. “Hey! It’s me. I’m gonna take you to the movies tonight.
“Oh really?” She responds. “Just me and you?” Amanda had to ask me this because I used to pay for my entire dorm to go to the movies every single week. It was something I liked to do to show them I cared about them.
…but not tonight.
“No, ma’am.” I speak softer. “It will only be me and you.”
“Well,“ she pauses. “I would like that.”
And with those few words, we were off to enjoy one of our few evenings alone, while I was a Resident Assistant at Liberty University.
I picked her up late – which is typically me.
We get to the movies. I open the door for her. I buy her ticket. I walk her into the theater.
The theater is dark. She grips my arm tightly. She smelled like Burberry Tender Touch – a sweet aroma of peony and freesia.
The previews have already started playing. I whisper in her ear, “Where do you want to sit at, Amanda?”
She looks around a bit. Then she looks at me. The flickers of the previews are illuminating her face. I see that she forms a half smile. Then she says “How about… we sit in the back row?”
We sneak to the very back of the theater. We find a row that only has
three seats. The theater is practically empty – only a few other people. But they are sitting far away from us – in the middle and front.
Alone – in the dark – in the corner – of that theater, we sat as close as we could get to one another.
I’m looking at Amanda. Amanda is looking at me.
We knew this was a special moment. And I could tell that this was going to be a great night.
But then….. he walked in.
Stumbling. Grunting. Mumbling words to himself that neither Amanda or I could comprehend. A tall man – very rough-looking – makes a lot of noise as he stands in the center aisle of the theater.
Eerily – he stands there without moving. I get a look at him. He’s wearing two winter jackets – a snow coat underneath a trench coat. He’s also wearing a large hood that covers most of his face.
When he looks over in our direction – I can see underneath the hood, and he’s wearing sunglasses, with a full beard and mustache.
He’s carrying a large back pack – and he keeps it close to his chest as he sways looking around.
He looks away from us. Then he stumbles away and falls into a seat in the row across from us in the back of the theater.
“Ben, did you see that man?” She whispers into my ear – while staring heartily across the aisle watching his every move.
“Yeah. So?” I respond. “Let’s just watch the movie.”
She keeps staring. “Why is he all covered up like that?”
“Because it’s cold outside Amanda.” I try to get her to stop looking at him. “Let’s just enjoy our time tonight. Don’t let that guy ruin our night, okay?.”
I pull her close to me, and I turn my head back to the screen. Amanda – on the other hand – has one eye on the screen and the other on the man across the aisle.
“Ben?” I hear Amanda whisper my name in an alarmed tone, but I try to act like I didn’t hear it.
“Ben!” She says it a bit louder and pulls the sleeve of my coat, but I know she is still watching that man and is making something out of nothing.
She says my name again. This time bolder, louder. “BEN!!!” In fear of disrupting the other movie-goers, I give her my attention.
“Amanda? What is it?” I respond annoyed, as I try to quiet her down. As I say this, I hear a clattering in my left ear. Amanda points across my chest. “Ben! What is he doing?”
The lone covered man is now going through the large bag he carried into the theater. He’s got it close to his face.
Amanda is obviously getting nervous. Then she really starts assuming the worst. “What if he has a bomb in that bag, Ben? What if he…” I stop her right there.
“Amanda! Are you kidding me? That man is not bothering you? He’s wearing a lot of clothes because he is cold, and he is probably just carrying that bag around for… “ I begin to hear the clattering noise of his bag getting louder.
He grunts. Then he stretches. He stands up, and then he leaves.
“See? He probably heard you Amanda – then got embarrassed and left.” With an intentionally spiritually condescending remark – I say, “you shouldn’t judge people like that.” I would regret this later.
Amanda pouts a bit, rolls her eyes, and then we go back to the movie. But the mood is tense from this event that just happened. “Can we enjoy our night alone now?” I ask.
“Fine.” She says.
5 minutes pass.
Then the door swings open again. The familiar grunts of our rough-looking friend reverberate in our ears.
Amanda finds her way immediately to my arm. I look over at him to nod – but what happens next makes even me a bit uneasy.
He looks right at me. He holds up his bag to his chest. Then he starts walking towards us.
“BEN! BEN! BEN! HE’S COMING….” Amanda is livid now.
“Can you please stop Amanda! You’re being ridiculous.” It was hard to argue with her about this in this quiet setting – but even more so because he continues to walk toward us.
Then – out of all the empty seats in that theater – he sits right down beside of Amanda and me. Remember – there are only three seats in this isle.
Now it’s Amanda, me, and creepy man whose face we cannot see.
We sit there awkwardly. This guy has not watched hardly any amount of this movie – but neither have I since he walked in, because he has scared Amanda the whole time
Suddenly, he looks over at us and looks away. He starts pillaging through his bag.
“I really think he has a bomb or a gun or SOMETHING!!!” She becomes more alarmed. “Ben, please! ! I want to leave.”
“I paid for these tickets, Amanda! I’m not leaving. Just leave the man alone, and stop thinking about it!” I sternly respond.
He makes more grunting noises – as he pillages through the bag. Amanda makes more whining noises in response.
“I am afraid, Ben! Why would you make me stay here when I am so afraid? He might blow this place up!!!” She says with an indictment o f guilt in her voice.
Realizing that there was no way I would get to watch this movie peacefully – I give in.
“FINE, AMANDA!” I jump up frustrated and move for the exit. Amanda is close behind.
We get by the man without any issues, but as we are leaving I get a glimpse of what he is pulling out of his bag: vodka.
Amanda and I argue in the hall, then in the car, then at Wendy’s, then in the parking lot, then in front of her dorm, then… we made up.
I was mad because I thought she was judging someone she didn’t even know. She was mad because she thought I would put her life at risk for a movie.
A few weeks later – I am at the theater again. I am talking to one of the managers about some of the teenagers who had to be escorted out by police.
Then the manager says this: “Well – those teenagers are nothing compared to the guy we caught a couple of weeks back.” He started to laugh.
“What happened?” I inquire.
“A homeless man had been sneaking in the theater and getting drunk during the films. Yeah – the police had a lot of trouble getting him out of here and into the car.” He shakes his head laughing, but I shake my head in disbelief.
Then the other employee at the theater jumps in. “I know I’ve seen that guy selling drugs behind the theater too!”
When they said all of that – I couldn’t help but feel like laughing and crying at the same time.
Amanda and I had both been right and wrong. He was a homeless man just trying to stay warm inside the theater, but he was also illegally entering the theater, getting drunk, and possibly selling drugs.
After this argument – both of us felt pretty dumb for how we assumed the other’s perception could not be right in the circumstance. I learned that always hoping for the best in people can get you hurt – and Amanda learned that always assuming the worst possible thing could happen doesn’t garner respect for your fear.
We are both wiser from this argument – but, this is still not the dumbest argument we ever had.