I sometimes wonder if my life would be any different if I would just have followed the directions at the bottom of the hundreds of chain letters Iíve received. Instead, I click ďdelete,Ē and watch both the letter and any chance I have at a lasting relationship disappear.
Are you not fabulous? I answer with New York City heels, and a New York City walk. I have not been to New York City yet. I am all the things I said I would be. I am fast. I am brave. I am fabulous.
So I straighten up into my heels because they really are to die for. My shoulders shape a drapey sweater that is so not typical, which is why I love it. Iím on a date with myself, I want to look nice. I want to look fierce. Untouchable.
ďJust one.Ē I smile. ďJust me.Ē
I am awesome, I think, ignoring the fact that, yes, these khakis are definitely tighter since the last time I put them on. Because Iím a 23 year old woman who is not afraid of going to the movies by herself. I got a small popcorn, thinking that what I really wanted was bag of Skittles, nostalgically, and a big chocolate bar, emotionally. That was why I wore the skinny khakis. Perspective.
I believe I can do anything. I really do. Everything. Maybe itís the childhood full of She-Ra costumes thatís to blame for this. Maybe itís the sports field battle scars that are to blame for this. My pants donít fit, and the theatre is dark enough for two, and heís not here anymore. I hate that I notice this. I wish bad things on nice-looking, happy-looking couples.
The movie is ďElizabeth: The Golden Age,Ē with Cate Blanchette as the single girl facing down the Spanish Armada. Her collars are wicked fierce, and she even gets body armor and rides her own white horse. She rejects archdukes, princes and pirates for the sake of her career. Sheís the Mother of England with a dangerously jealous cousin, entire organizations plotting her assassination, untrustworthy chamber maids, slanderous houseguests, and an invading Navy to worry about. Sheís beautiful, powerful, successful, has an unbelievable stylist, and still, the smoldering pirate from the New World chooses the slutty chamber maid and Elizabeth is immortalized as the Virgin Queen. She cleans away her tears, has the maid and the pirate imprisoned, and then lights the Spanish Armada on fire.
I didnít date until I was 21. I suppose my own Armadas kept me busy so it didnít matter. But I have them now, too. This empty chair shouldnít matter, and because it does, I fail myself.
Sitting alone in the romantically dim theatre, part of me is glad that nobody I know will see me here by myself. I am 23. I have a job, a college degree. This is not the junior high cafeteria. But I still put my jacket on the seat beside me so it looks like there might be somebody with me. I know. I know this defeats the point of the evening, but something about the empty seat makes me want to start crying. And crying is something I try to save for pillowcases and long drives with weepy CDís.
If I had bought the Skittles, I would have picked out all the purple ones and set them aside. Even in the dark, in the glow from the screen, I would have checked the candies in my hand before I ate them. The green or red or yellow or orange ones I would have eaten, but the purple ones I would have collected in a napkin and saved. This napkin would have been pocketed in the cup holder on the end of the arm rest, a little purple Skittle sack. I love purple Skittles. No, thatís not true. I love that he loved purple Skittles. Stop that.
I believe I can do anything. I am awesome. Itís a mantra I used to say before I slid my toes into the starting blocks before every race. Two-hundred meters, heat three. Iím fifteen, running so high on my toes, I begin to think that I donít even need to touch the track, only the air above it. If I go any faster, Iíll probably light on fire. Some poor chick in lane two thinks sheís going to catch me. I finish the race on my elbows, my loud yellow spikes skidding in behind me. Sheís second, and my knees have skinned halfway down my shins. But that wire was mine. I am awesome. Thatís why.
I want the world. To be in it, to change it, to experience it. I want dinners in Paris, book signings in London. I want new worlds, new words, new foods and new places. I want airplane tickets and a stamped-up passport. I want to know this place, I want new questions, I want something to chase. I want to feel my toes three feet off the track. I want viciously seductive heels that I canít afford. I hadnít planned on wanting someone to tell me the heels worked.
I never wanted the white wedding or the 2.6 children. Iím not that girl. In elementary school, ďplaying houseĒ meant I got to play the family dog, or horse, or unicorn. Power Rangers were usually involved, and the ďdaddyĒ never really needed to show up. We had everything under control here, thanks. It makes me wonder which bill of goods is the one I want to buy. I am a child of the 90ís, my mother a teenager of the 70ís. I will not be called ďsweetheart,Ē and I open pickle jars. I am a feminist. Iím also female. I am the girl who isnít afraid of a three-on-three pick-up game with the boys, but shudders at the thought of being trapped in a one-on-one relationship. So how is it that the single movie ticket hurts more than taking an elbow to the face under the basket? How is anyone expected to win? Canít you have your pirate and rule your kingdom, too?
During the previews, I rest my arms on both armrests. Even though he canít see it, I give a little thumbs-down for the movies I donít want to see, a thumbs-up for the ones I do. My jacket beside me has no opinion on the matter. Realizing what Iím doing, I fill my palm with popcorn instead. I understand that half of the battle is recognizing the difference between what your brain wants and what your heart thinks it wants. I have a friend who says thereís a reason that nearly every song on the radio is a love song. I tell her itís marketing. She tells me itís the human condition.
My situation is nothing new. I know this. I am not sitting in this theatre trying to wear a pair of tiny pants because I think Iím somehow more tragic than the billions of girls who have been here before me. I am sitting here because itís my turn. Grief is a universal experience, but I donít pretend that my grief is exactly like that of those other billions. My sorrow is a common one, and happens daily all over the world. I understand this. In Spain or South Africa or Russia or Idaho, there is a girl in this quiet sisterhood trying in the best way she knows to forget him. Iím the one with a fist full of popcorn in Louisville. In the kaleidoscope of human sorrows, I understand that mine is small. But for me, itís huge. For me, for now, the fracture in my chest renders me immobile. For me, this is the first heartache the world has ever seen. This one is mine. And itís my challenge to choose what to do with it.
The theatre lights expose me. One please. Iím hugging my jacket, its seat is empty. Nobody notices. If they do, they allow me my peace and my date for one, perhaps recognizing another soldier on her own white horse, wearing her own silver armor.