Friday, November 24, 2006

"Don't be surprised when a crack in the ice appears under your feet"

I knew our relationship was over when he wanted to leave halfway through the movie.

The cinema manager had severely underestimated the film’s popularity, and our queue wrapped around an entire section of the Dayton Mall’s upper deck. I fretted that the show would sell out before we reached the ticket window—back then there was no such thing as buying movie tickets in advance—and Bill had seemed anxious that it would sell out too. He acted like he had really wanted to see it. What had happened in the span of an hour?

As we waited in line, I recognized classmates Kim and Jenny among the steady stream of dazed and blinking cinemagoers exiting Cinema 3’s previous showing. I waved and they rushed over, their words spilling out in rapid-fire praise for the film. We spoke only for a few minutes before our queue began to move, but their synopsis had made me even more eager to see The Wall.

Bill began fidgeting after only ten minutes, and seemed to grow more upset as the film progressed. His outward display of displeasure mimicked an obsessive compulsive: huff, shift, cross arms, snort, uncross arms, huff, shift, cross arms, snort, uncross arms, ad nauseam.

I, on the other hand, could hardly blink for fear of missing something. When he leaned over and whispered, “Hey, are you ready to leave or what?” I could hardly believe my ears. I shook my head without tearing myself away from the unfolding scene on screen, which just seemed to add to his annoyance.

He continued huffing and squirming for the remainder of the film, crossing and uncrossing his arms in a display of exaggerated exasperation.

As we walked back to his car after the movie, any attempts I made at conversation were met with stony silence. I puzzled over what could have pissed him off this time, the scenes still flickering brightly in my mind. Was it the movie itself? Disapproval for Pink’s drug use? Did the sexual animation make him uncomfortable? Or was it that he identified a bit too closely with Pink: a child adrift without a father, the claustrophobia of an overbearing mother, suffering abuse by relatives at a tender age. It was all there, minus the rock-star drug habit. Of course, deep down I knew it wasn’t the movie. It was me.

We drove home in sullen silence, and I mentally prepared myself for what was to come. We’d been dating for about six months, and I was getting used to the routine: go out, get yelled at. What would it be this time? Raging jealousy that some guy might have looked my way? Was it yet another bout of Puritanical righteousness and he’d decided my clothing was somehow inappropriate? Had I perhaps not laughed hard enough at one of his jokes? Really, it could be anything, and as the car pulled into the driveway, I braced myself for the onslaught.

The fights always began the same. Bill would give me the silent treatment while he ruminated and fumed over some infraction, then he’d begin by saying “we need to talk,” which really meant “I’m going to yell at you again.”

And then he’d drop whatever bomb he’d built up in his head.

The barrage that followed The Wall can basically be summed up in one word: insecurity. Apparently when Kim and Jenny saw us standing in line, I had let go of his hand to wave at them. In accordance with the elaborate set of rules Bill kept in his head, I was not allowed to let go of his hand for any reason. To do so meant I didn’t love him. Oh, he could let go of MY hand if the need arose, but not vice versa.

And according to Bill, I’d not only let go of his hand while in line at the cinema, I’d also done it earlier as we were walking through the mall to get to the cinema! He’d been holding my right hand, and I let go of it to cover a sneeze.

Surely, I rationalized, covering a sneeze was grounds for freeing up a hand, but he shot back that I could have used my left hand for that. The more I tried to reason with him, the more illogical his argument became. I was accused of “pretending to sneeze” so that I could “purposefully let go of” his hand because there was “a better looking guy passing us” and I “didn’t want him to know I was with” Bill.

A derisive snort from me was all it took. He smacked me across the face. Hard. Stunned, I looked at him, completely bewildered, and despite the rage I felt rising inside, my eyes welled with tears.

Immediately he was all apologies and sorrow. He’d never do it again. He’d only done it because I’d pushed his buttons. He loved me so very, very much, and why couldn’t I just behave and love him like he loved me? Why did I have to keep screwing everything up?

I fumbled with the door handle and managed to get it open, and ran, The Wall still resounding in my head:

Did you see the frightened ones?
Did you hear the falling bombs?
Did you ever wonder why we had to run for shelter when the promise of a brave new world unfurled beneath a clear blue sky?

Did you see the frightened ones?
Did you hear the falling bombs?
The flames are all gone, but the pain lingers on.

Goodbye, blue sky

Goodbye, blue sky.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So then what happened?