by Elif Alp
I’m writing this in my head on the way home from seeing a movie with him, the first time we’ve laughed alone together in a while, since I can remember actually. Felt how much I love him traipsing through a movie theater parking lot on a chilly winter evening, just outside Chicago where you can hear the prairie winds in the morning despite the clutter of cookie cutter houses and the formulaic three trees per front yard. It’s Thanksgiving weekend and dammit sibling affection can be so volatile and impossible, and then so simple and pure. Snuggling up against him I take his arm in mine, skip some, everything is light and golden. D asks if he can get a slushy, and I say, red or pink I mean no blue or red? We laugh, both D says and I say that just makes it purple, and we laugh more. Or maybe it’s the same laugh and we’re just talking through it.
Of all the flicks D picks Puss in Boots, insists on 3D. To see a movie, a fun movie, the kind we never see anymore he says. Dammit life is serious enough he says, why not have some fun in a movie for a second? And just like that we’re kids again, kids at a movie theater that looks like it did when it was built in the late 90s, the Barnum-and-Bailey inspired new old movie house plush. The same as it looked when I had last gone to a movie this enthused, but then not because this time we’re laughing and the theater looks the same but we look different. We shy away from the arcade room, glowing and flashing on and off, games lined up against all the walls with an air hockey table triumphant in the middle of it all, even though I love air hockey and D probably does too or at least he’d say he did if I’d asked.
A young guy sits at the end of the concession stand behind a sign that says “TICKETS SOLD HERE.” I say to him what do you got here, tickets?, and D laughs and so does the guy. Ever the older sister, a touch of swagger in front of the kid, his giggles validating, fueling my fire. I want to make him laugh forever. The guy says which movie are you here to see and I make like I’m a little embarrassed and whisper Puss in Boots, in 3D?, and D giggles more. The guy tries to make like it doesn’t matter, great he says, tapping away at the screen in front of him, here are your 3D glasses. D says oh my god, his jaw drops at the cheap plastic glasses on the counter, feigning his real excitement and knowing it’s funny because we’re painfully self-aware like that. Look I say to the guy, if anyone asks this never happened. Oh no he says, mum’s the word, that sincere Midwestern sarcasm.
Snacks D says, and we slide on down the stand. He gets a hot dog, and when he asks for that blue and red slushy the guy doesn’t even blink or think it’s weird. Holy shit I say, we are having so much fun and everything is so funny and D says so funny you couldn’t even write it, and we laugh. Until I do I say, and we laugh harder. Did you say butter the guy says, bag of popcorn in his hand, so funny you couldn’t even write it.
We walk into the theater right when the movie starts and everything feels too perfect, the laughs, the snacks, the timing, me and D. There’s hardly anyone there so we sit up and center and we’re giggling and then I realize while the movie is rolling that it’s not too perfect it’s just perfect enough, and that nothing has been funny all night except how much I love D and how much he loves me despite all the distance and space of being siblings as adults.
Now on the way home some soft sensual bossa nova is playing on the radio and it’s perfect too. I’m trying to find out what recording it is with some music recognition app to no avail, and then I have another realization. It’s frustratingly appropriate, a sign, like the gods were smiling down on me and nodding, watching it dawn on me how many strings they pulled tonight, glad I was recognizing. Silly naïve mortal:
The song only plays once so listen hard. Turn the volume up roll the windows down breath in the moment and remember it, dammit.
ELIF ALP is a documentary filmmaker and beginning level banjo player in New York City. She is also obtaining a PhD in Sociology from Columbia University. Her creative writing can best be categorized as exaggerated and glorified journal entries, building off personal experiences with an explicit attempt to make her readers laugh. Or at least smirk. Come on, no one? Oh no, not the crickets on a warm summer evening sound clip. Jesus, tough crowd.