Last night was date night. Dinner and movie. I asked Kev to watch Wonder Woman with me the night before. He’s not a fan of superhero movies, but he indulged me anyway. Last night, of course, he repaid the favor by taking me to see the Darkest Hour. A story of Winston Churchill. I’m not a fan of war movies. They ring too true for me. In fact, I try to steer clear of anything that causes much emotional involvement.
We ate dinner at a restaurant close to the theatre. Utilizing one of our Christmas gift cards. The place was packed as expected. But, even with the heavy 7:00 p.m. date night crowd, we were served fairly quickly. Leaving Kev and I with extra time on our hands.
We decided to vacate the table and head over to the theatre. There is no need to cheat the server of a good night’s wage by lingering too long. The theatre is a massive complex with 17 showing rooms. In addition, it houses a diner, game room, bar and restaurant. Some of the showing rooms have plush reclining, heated seats and wait staff who will bring you the food and drinks of your choosing. And, everyone gets there very own arm rests. No sharing required. It’s lovely. Last night we had tickets to one of the Screening Rooms. Reclining seats but no waitstaff. It’s a very spoiled experience nonetheless.
Upon our arrival, we walked upstairs and headed to the bar. We took the seats at the left end, received our drink order, and was making our usual small talk when a woman walked over and sat in the chair to my right. There was a gap of four chairs between me and the next party, which meant she could have left one between us, but alas she did not. I don’t usually talk to strangers. Some might say I’m rude, I say it’s just me, label what you want.
The stranger, this woman sitting to my right, was a talker. A loud, engage as many people as possible, kind of talker. She had long blonde hair and wore little make up. Her eyelids were puffy and she carried a little extra weight. She had a tattoo of a blue balloon and the word “Ryan” written on the inside of her right wrist.
I made eye contact with this stranger and gave her a polite smile and that is all it took. Full throttle engagement. My date was going to have to wait. It didn’t take a genius to figure out the woman sitting next to me was heavily intoxicated.
In less than a minute this stranger was telling me about the turbulent relationship she is currently having with her pre-teen daughter. She told me about her “old man,” how they’ve been together since she was 13 years old, and in passing, some of the terrible, awful words her “old man” says to her. As her story unfolded it became more deep and grew more dark. Her phone buzzed twice during our conversation. The word “Mom” flashed on its screen. She was quick to dismiss the call. Clicked the button and never answered. She described her mom’s addiction to pills. She told me about her sister’s violence against her own child, her sister’s addiction and numerous failed relationships. She teared up as she described her 19-year-old nephew, how close she was to him, and how depressed she has been since the devastating act of his recent suicide.
She was excited to show me a picture of him. He was tall and slender with brown hair. He stood smiling in his red cap and gown. His high school graduation picture. His youth ever-present in his features. Our hearts were in unison in that moment. I could feel the depth of her sadness. Such a terrible and incredible loss.
The irony in all of this is she wasn’t complaining. She was just telling me about her life. Her story. Unabashedly open. She wasn’t complaining at all, this woman, this stranger sitting next to me, she was just surviving. All I could do was listen. Give her a few moments of my time. Hear her sorrow and acknowledge her pain. Acknowledge the struggle that is often life, and do my best to leave her words to encourage her to fight another day.
I felt a nudge on my left arm. My date. The time had come for us to head to our movie. I uttered my apologies for needing to step away, thanked her for the conversation, and told her “to keep her chin up, you got this.” She smiled, shook my hand, and thanked me back. Her demeanor was calmer now. A little more subdued.
Kev and I made our way down the stairs and past the ticket taker. As we walked down the corridor to theatre number 9 Kev said; “You made yourself a new friend.” “Yes, I seem to have a knack for that. She is hurting, really, really hurting,” I replied.
This morning I am not sure the stranger will even remember me or any of our conversation, yet I can’t forget her. She weighs on my heart and mind today. The stranger at the movie, may God see to it to heal her heart, remove her sorrow and depression, heal her family, and bless her life.