The other night my boyfriend Tor and I had a plan to go to the movies. I was excited to see the movie we were seeing, as was he, and we purchased our tickets online, early in the morning, because Tor told me that the new movie theater in our town, which is tiny, was regularly selling out.
The movie was at seven. At 6:15, in preparation for Tor’s 6:30 arrival at home, I made one bean and cheese quesadilla. The idea was that a half quesadilla each would be enough of a snack to avoid being hungry during the movie but not so large that we would not want to eat afterward.
I dug into my half of the quesadilla as soon as it was ready. While I was eating it, M, our friend and roommate and A, his girlfriend, came home. They had had a drink or two, and A greeted the other half of the bean and cheese quesadilla as if it were an old friend she had not seen in many years due to a terrible war during which both she and the quesadilla had been imprisoned.
As she ate she kept apologizing, and I kept insisting it was fine because I could make another one. But I am a very anxious person. Sadly there is really nothing you can do about being an anxious person. To believe that you can is to merely add “being a fool” to the already rather large issue of “being anxious.” If I hadn’t been able to make another quesadilla I would have been indeed been very very anxious watching her eat it. The idea of Tor – whom I love appropriately, as one loves a boyfriend, but also creepily, the way a parent loves a child or the way a child might love a ladybug it put in a jar with a few blades of grass – the idea of him going to the movies hungry after a long day of work and it being MY FAULT – such a thing would put me RIGHT OVER THE EDGE.
But as I said, luckily there was more of everything and I set about making Tor his very own quesadilla which frankly, presented a fresh set of problems. What if he wasn’t hungry after the movies, because he was a half quesadilla up on me, and then he didn’t really want to go eat, and I did. WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN THEN? Then it occurred to me. I could just make half a quesadilla. It was brilliant, so simple, and, I thought – it just might work!
As I “cooked,” A and M debated whether they would come to the movie or stick with their original plan of going to the lake. I told them I was positive it was going to be a very good movie but that I certainly did not blame them if they decided to go to the lake because it was very hot. Then I informed them they had to had to had to buy their tickets in advance if they were going to go.
They proceeded to have a fifteen-minute conversation about whether they should go to the movie or the lake. Neither one of them was willing to admit to any personal preference. Each instead insisted upon only wanting whatever the other one wanted. It all made me extremely nervous. Plus, I could not stop picturing all the tickets to the movie floating into the ether as they had this nonsense conversation.
Suddenly they were walking out the door. “We will see you at the movie, we’re going to go to grab something to eat,” they said.
“BUT DID YOU GET YOUR TICKETS IN ADVANCE?” I screamed after them. “It’s fine,” they said. “We will just get them there,” they said. And then they were too far away for me to keep yelling. I looked at Merle, my dog/friend, and shrugged. “Merle,” I said, “We can only make suggestions to people. We can’t control them.” She understood.
Tor arrived home three or four minutes later than I considered ideal. “M and A are meeting us at the movie too and they didn’t buy tickets in advance,” I told him breathlessly as he got into the shower. He opened the shower door to pat my arm.
I myself would have opted for a shorter shower but as much of a relief as it might have been to forcibly remove him from the shower it seemed likely that the long-term repercussions would not be worth it. As Tor dressed we caught up a little and I was attentive enough to make him feel both Seen and Listened To but not so much that it might slow us down. He ate his half quesadilla.
We walked into the lobby at 6:58. How dearly I wished it were 6:52. Even 6:56 would have brought me comfort. I wasted a good fifteen seconds just standing there because I didn’t know what to do next. Should I get drinks? Should I go in and see if M and A were already there, sitting down, saving seats? Tor was still in line to scan our tickets so I hadn’t actually officially been legally admitted to the theater – what if I went in there without the expressed permission of the theater authorities and someone got mad at me? The mere notion of displeasing a stranger who would think that I was rude and had no respect for their rules was more than I could bear. Meanwhile, people were streaming past me, going into the theater. I had to get seats.
After spending an entire day by myself, the mere presence of all these bodies, minds, and souls, not to mention haircuts, was a lot. I felt discombobulated, unmoored, and certain of only one thing, that catastrophe loomed. A and M were in fact not in the theater. There were some seats, but not four seats in a row. As is usually the case by 6:58, they were all just for two or one. But it was I who had convinced A and M to go to the movie. It was my responsibility to get seats for them.
In the front row, there was a guy sitting all by himself in the middle. I made a beeline for him. “Hey,” I said. I couldn’t quite place him. He wasn’t a full-on hipster and he wasn’t a nerd and he wasn’t really a hippie either. There was a shirt on the seat next to him. “You’re with someone?” I said. “Would you mind moving over so we can have four seats in a row?”
I didn’t expect this to be a big deal at all. I mean, this was fuckin’ Nevada City dude, this place was groovy, right? I mean, actually this guy should have felt gratitude. I was giving him a opportunity to help out a sister. Sadly, while crisis is another word for opportunity, for an anxious person this tends to work in reverse.
The guy made a face. He made several faces. If you were the sort of person who found human behavior merely interesting instead of evidence that you are a terrible person who is just one awkward interaction away from being publicly shunned, he offered an objectively fascinating array of expressions. At first he looked bemused, then he looked amused, and this morphed into mere anger only to swerve back to a new, very much hardened version of amusement.
“Sure,” he said, shaking his head, as if this sort of indignity was constantly befalling him and he couldn’t believe it was happening again. “Sure I’ll move over.”
Oh no! I wasn’t letting this little fucker do me a favor.
“It’s fine,” I said. “Never mind.”
“No,” he said. “I’m moving. See?” He gathered up his stuff, and I guess his girlfriend’s stuff. And now I had to save the seats, because I had to go buy drinks, because now that I had seats, my next fear was that Tor was going to get me a chardonnay instead of a sauvignon blanc. I had to get to the lobby before that happened! But I didn’t have anything on me to save the seats with, and I wasn’t going to ask that dude to help me out. I wasn’t wearing a sweater. I didn’t have any keys. All I had was my glasses. I put my glasses on one seat. Then I tried setting them in a way so that half my glasses were on one seat and half of them were on the other, but they fell down. Then it became a matter of trying to decide which seat I should place the glasses on so as to communicate that all the other seats were taken. I wondered what it would be like to be someone watching me, this woman picking up and putting down a pair of glasses on one seat and then picking up and putting them down on another. I thought about how I am now young only in my mind’s eye, and how much, every single day, I am moving from “weird” to “crazy old bat.”
I finally settled on a seat, not the one right next to the couple, but the one after that, and then I took out my hair clip and put it on the last seat in our group of four, assuming that the only people who might try to sit down here would be couples, and there were clearly not two seats together this way. As I ran to the lobby for drinks, it dawned on me that I had banished that guy and his girlfriend to truly horrible seats, the far corner of the front row. I mean, I knew about the far corner of the front row, but I hadn’t really been thinking. I just was like “Move over dude.” What’s the big deal. This is what sucks about anxiety. It seems like you’re rude, but you’re just always panicking. And is there a difference? I don’t know.
Tor had just made it through the line to scan the tickets. M and A still weren’t there. It was 7:01 at this point, but I felt I had lived many lifetimes since 6:56. “Get me a sauvignons blanc,” I shouted to Tor as I rushed back to protect the seats. There was a couple hovering over them, in their mid-50s. The man was balding and had an air of tech money, which I like nowhere and liked even less here. His companion had a taste for wearable art. “I want to sit down,” the guy shouted. He was one of those people who, to the detriment of all but him, seemed very comfortable in his own skin. “I bought tickets to this movie, there should be seats for me.” I just looked at the ground. When Tor walked by the man repeated himself, angrier now. “This is ridiculous. How do I buy two tickets to a show and have to sit separately? What kind of place is this?” Tor stood there. He looked at the man. He looked at me. “They’re still not here.”
“Did they text you to say they weren’t coming?”
Tor laughed because M never tells anyone anything. For him, texting someone to give them information about his whereabouts is a commitment on the level of going to couples therapy.
Tor sat down. “I guess maybe we should just tell these douchebags they can sit down,” I said. I leaned over Tor. “You can sit down.” I said. “Our friends aren’t coming.” The guy and the wearable art lady sat down muttering ungratefully. “What a dick,” Tor said. “Get used to it,” I said. “There’s only going to be more of them after they all lose their jobs and move up here.”
I explained to Tor that I had made those other poor people sit in the corner. He was a little horrified but is used to things like that. We got them moved back to the middle and we went to the corner and while we all settled ourselves I explained to them I had horrible anxiety and it makes me direct people around like a cattle dog (example: Merle) nipping at everyone’s heels and I was sorry. They laughed and we were all friends because the other guy was more of a jerk.
At this moment M and A showed up. M had to sit in the front row and A sat second from the back. At first it was really hard for me to concentrate on the movie because I kept thinking that it was my fault, that if it wasn’t for me they would be swimming in a nice lake now.
The movie was overrated. It made me so mad. I kept snorting derisively. Tor leaned into me. “Sarah,” he whispered. “You have to stop that.”