“Heather- it’s just a movie”. Thwap. Impending doom music fades out, I extricate my scarf-covered face out of Matt’s armpit, and lift my eyes. Approximately sixty seconds later I’m smelling Old Spice again. “Heather- it’s just a movie”. Thwap. This was the general play-by-play for date night.
Earlier in the afternoon we were lying around checking the movie listings. While there were other movies I wanted to see, Matt opened the link for Sanctum . It didn’t look terrible and because I was so grateful for a willing movie date, I said yes. Mere hours later I was sweating in front of the water fountain trying to swallow half a Xanax. It’s not that I’m a total pansy. I slept with the lights on for a month after watching Silence of the Lambs, but whatever. I’m sensitive, yes. Anxiety prone, maybe absolutely. I could feel cortisol ripping through my body with each scene. It could have been the result of idiot-proof foreshadowing since I never doubted that as the music reached crescendo SOMEONE was going to audibly, vividly, die (which would then take three minutes- gurgle, gurgle); but more likely my fight-or-flight response was triggered by the plot- people stuck in a deep, unexplored, inescapable, quickly-flooding cave. It hit ALL of my triggers. A week later, I can barely write about it now.
When I’m in teacher land, a perennial topic of conversation is: What makes readers readers? And this is it. For some people, it really is just a movie. For others, though, it is a story, and the thing about us is, stories are alive. When we read, view, listen to, tell, or talk about a story- we become part of its web as it becomes part of us. This movie, it wasn’t just a movie. It was a story that teased out events I didn’t want to remember, deep fears, connections to relationships and events… I can’t understand it, but some people can just watch the goddamn movie. It’s just a movie. They move about their lives and do not have any significant psychological trauma as a result. They watch a film and see a singular thing, they read a book and see inventions. I’ve cried at the end of books because they were over and I had to return to reality (even if my father tells me I’ve constructed my own).
Now when I lay this line on Matt (in response to “it’s just a movie”), he thinks I’m totally full of shit. “But Matt,” I say, “it’s just a movie for you but for ME it’s a STORY. It’s ALIVE! This is what makes ME a reader and YOU the guy who remembers to pay the bills”. He, my father, my mother, and both dogs roll their eyes at me. And while my credibility may be marred my a recent defense, a good one if I may say so, of the existence of unicorns, I’m still right. But that’s another story.