The parking lot at the Camelot doesn’t have much tree shade, and it was 115 degrees that Saturday afternoon, which was her true reason for going to the movies in the first place. The palm trees offered little shade and the fonds could fall on your car with no wind at all.
She could not believe her luck when she spied one last space under a chitalpa tree. She accelerated to the end of the lot, made a left and then another left. She arrived just in time to see someone else take the space.
Thwarted, she slowly lowered her forehead to the steering wheel. When she raised her head she saw the man who stole her parking place walk from the little Nissan toward her. She hoped she wasn’t in for any road rage, he got the shady spot after all. If anyone should be it a rage, it was her turn. She was already half way there.
He gestured for her to roll down the window, and she did, though she thought that might not be the right thing to do.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “Were you going for that spot?”
“I was, but…”
“Please, I can move. Stay right here and I’ll back out.”
Was this one of those random acts of kindness? She became conscious of her flimsy tank tap, which she wore without a bra when the heat was brutal.
The man backed his car and circled around the lot to a sun drenched place. She pulled into the shady spot while he was setting up his windshield heat deflectors. They got out of their cars at the same time and walked toward the theater, thrown together side by side. She didn’t like a stranger so close to her.
“Thank you,” she said, “for that. I can’t bear getting into a hot car.”
“Women are like that,” he said.
She didn’t know that women were like that, and why should he? Who wouldn’t hate jumping out of an oven and into a frying pan, the seat burning your legs and searing through your shorts and panties and your hands burning when you touch the wheel. Hating all that did not have to be a feminine characteristic, except for the panties part, and this was Palm Springs, so who knew? He looked straight, but she’d been wrong before. Oh, brother, how many times? It didn’t matter anyway. He was not age appropriate.
They sell tickets over the concession counter at the Camelot. It’s an art film place. She asked for one for “Infinitely Polar Bear” and a diet Coke. He asked for exactly the same thing.
“I guess we have similar tastes,” he said.
God! She appreciated the shady parking space, but all she was interested in was a good movie and a cool place to sit. Didn’t he realize he was making her uncomfortable?
Empty seats were all over the place. He did ask politely, though, and added, “I live alone, so going to the movies…” How could she say no? Still, she was not at ease with this imposed intimacy. Did he not see the nonverbal clues?
It occurred to her that he might have changed his mind about the show the instant he heard what movie she was going to see. That would give him a reasonable excuse to sit next to her and chat her up, exactly like he was doing. He had probably planned to see the one about the Beach Boys. It would have been more his era.
“My boyfriend is bi-polar, so…” she said, explaining her choice of films. She waited for him to explain his, which he did: “I enjoy Mark Ruffalo. He seems real.”
Probably gay. She hoped. She hated it when older men hit on her. Why do they do that? What makes them think it’s all right?
He took a long draw on his diet Coke and said that he thought it must be difficult to be in love with someone bi-polar.
“You have no idea. It’s a curse. Can’t leave, can’t stay. Sympathy and fury.”
She told him, in the moments before the lights went down, some of what it was like to stand by a man who might at one moment be charming and bright and at another be lying in the fetal position. She might have been telling him all this only as a kind of defense. She was relieved when the show finally started.
The film overwhelmed her and during the end credits she cried silently into her cupped hands. Who knows what this dude hoped for when he gave up his shady spot? This is what he gets. Enjoy.
He patted her knee, and she flinched, shocked by his blatant invasion of her personal space. It was an assault.
“You have nothing to feel bad about,” he said. “Sounds to me like you’re doing your best. He’s lucky to have you.”
With that he got to his feet. She fought the impulse to grab his arm.
He said, “Try to stay cool,” and walked away.
His car was gone by the time she got to hers, because she lingered in the empty theatre, pulling herself together. She had no boyfriend. Her last one accused her of creating drama where none existed. But it’s all around you, isn’t it?