If I had the time, I’d tell you a story, but they’re after me and I really don’t have the time to spare. You insist? Really? I’m flattered. Maybe I could just plant a seed. That’s all you really need. Everyone else is trying to immerse you in an experience, trying to cram a whole narrative through your eyeballs as if you lived to be constantly distracted… entertained.
It’s a Thursday. Nothing special about the day. Early fall in a suburban enclave. Can you smell the fallen leaves? They act like a carpet dampening our characters’ footfalls as they walk hand in hand. Their steps fall in sync as if they’d been together for years (37 to be exact). The state college a mere half hour’s distance on leisurely foot. They’re headed to see the latest film at the arty, retro movie theatre. One of those rare couples that enjoys the same culture. At the same time. Dinner and a movie. Routine. The kind that wears carpets thin. But in a lived in sort of way, not a sad, pathetic monotonous one. This is a seed I’m planting. We’re planting it together. In your head.
“Two tickets for the seven o’clock showing,” the man says. He pays the student who runs the ticketbooth while his wife studies the posters of future films. He holds the door open for her. She enters and they head into the dimly lit theatre. She picks their seats two-thirds of the way back from the screen. A handful of other patrons stroll in over the next few minutes. The lights go dark. Previews of future movies take almost seventeen minutes. About twenty or so minutes into what appears to be a very promising piece of art, Helen gets up and tells Dale she’s going to use the restroom. He chuckles. Finds this an endearing habit of hers. He quickly gets sucked back into that almost hypnotic state good film induces.
He looks down at his watch. How long has she been gone? She’s not usually this long. He decides to wait another five minutes, but another eleven pass as he gets sucked back into the projected escape. He doesn’t want to miss anything, but is genuinely worried about Helen. He leaves the theatre. Stands awkwardly in front of the women’s bathroom. Knocks tentatively. Hearing nothing he knocks harder. Opens the door a few inches: “Helen?”… No sound. “Helen?!!”
“Is there a problem, sir?” one of the ushers asks. “My wife has been gone for a while. I’m worried about her.” he replies. “The woman with the pretty grey sweater?” “Yes. That’s her.” “I’m pretty sure she walked outside about a half hour ago.” He stands blinking. His brow furrowed. His hands straight at his sides. “Uh… maybe she needed some fresh air” he says.
Dale walks through the front door. Looks around for Helen. No sign anywhere. It’s quiet and peaceful. A few students are sitting across the street on a bench enjoying the leisure of youth.
Helen is not coming back. She has left for good. It is hard to say whether this was premeditated. Dale leans down to pull the wet leaves off the bottom of his shoe. Wipes the wet dirt upon the sides of his thighs. He turns and goes back into the theatre. His spine is slightly more curved at the neck.