"We All Have The Movie. The One We're Supposed to Hate. Talk About... In Depth. Spoil it and explain WHY you love it despite mostly everyone else."
AKA: writing creative nonfiction is therapeutic, but it hurts my heart
When the ending credits finish rolling, I'm leaned forward on the sofa, my elbows divoting my knees. I turn my head to look at him and catch him quickly looking away - the telltale sign of someone more focused on watching your reaction to something than watching the film or show or YouTube video itself.
My knees creak as I kneel on the dusty carpet of the living room, peering half-interestedly at the laptop screen as he fumbles with an HDMI cable, connecting it to the bigger television.
"I want you to watch this movie with me." My eyebrow quirk up as I look at the title, and glance from the laptop screen to his grinning face, beaming, a 26 year old cherub with deep-set dimples and an unruly brown crew cut that the littlest of Little Rascals would envy.
"Demolition Man? I've never even heard of it," I protest flatly. We have just seen Jurassic Park, and I wanted to see the sequel. "Why do you want to watch this?" The dimples never vanish, but the smile leaves his eyes. I squeeze his shoulder. The relationship is just four or five months old, everyone is still in the honeymoon phase of making perfect effort one hundred percent of the time. "Lemme go pee."
"That was awesome." I say, enthusiasm pressing on my body's seams like a fire hydrant, bound to burst. "We have to watch it again." I lean back into the circle of his arms and feel him press a kiss to my temple.
The next time we watch it, we are prepared. The relationship is eight or nine months old, and we're sat on my sofa again, a twelve count box of Taco Bell tacos open and waiting on the coffee table. (six soft shell with mild sauce for myself, six hard shell with hot sauce for him). To watch this movie while not eating Taco Bell is a crime, we've decided, based on the overwhelming evidence shown in the film.
By the time the scenes even involving Taco Bell show up onscreen, the tacos are long-since gone and we are on opposite ends of the couch, laughing and repeating a couple of lines that we find the most funny. We follow each other around the tiny one-bedroom apartment, kicking in doors instead of opening them and bellowing "Phoenix!" at each other. There is a sense of best friend comraderie there, an omnipresent "I just want to make you laugh." We might be partners, but it feels deeper. He leans in like he is going to kiss me, and instead starts to sing the Green Giant jingle against my lips, buzzing like a hornet. I kick him beneath the table at Cheddar's cafe.
Next time I don't even ask. I just show up at his doorstep in the rain, hair slicked back, a rapidly-softening box of tacos clutched in my hands. It's been nearly two years, and he answers the door distractedly, his phone in one hand. He takes in my wet-dog appearance, the tacos in my hand, and sighs. "Okay."
We watch the movie - he in his computer chair, me on the sofa, the box of tacos on a TV tray between us. We laugh in all the right places, but it feels hollow. I go to hug him when I'm getting up to leave - usually the time he would tell me to stay, come on, spend the night. But he presses a quick, distracted kiss into the hollow of my neck and says he'll talk to me tomorrow. That night I noticed the hickeys on his neck that he claimed were an allergic reaction. That night I believed him.
For Christmas that year my father gives me a huge Demolition Man poster - the glossy, hard plastic kind that Blockbuster and movie theaters posted outside on the lighted squares to showcase what films were playing. "I found it on eBay!" he proclaims proudly, and I hug him tighter than I previously knew possible to hug someone. I convince my boyfriend to stay home for a weekend to celebrate our second anniversary - a rarity these days, he always leaves on the weekends - and we go to Walmart, buying a huge poster frame. We hang it on the wall behind his kitchen table and when we fight, I look at it to remind myself that my family loves me.
"She's just a friend."
"Well then let me talk to her if she's just a friend. Why are you being so defensive?"
"You always blow shit out of proportion. And then you wonder why I don't wanna spend any time with you? Jesus Christ."
The glass of brandy smashes somewhere between Wesley Snipes' nose and the sullen eyebrows of Sylvester Stallone. "He didn't mean that," I whisper to Sly as I wipe up the mess. "he loves me. I know he does."
There is a point, nearly three years in, that I give up. I know he is cheating, and I just don't care any more - I love him, and I do not believe in leaving my partner because I believe it to be shameful. But one day, we break up because he loves the side chick too much and we split our things - clothes, DVDs, books, kitchen gadgets - under the watchful eye of Sylvester Stallone. I take my things away in the trunk of my car, and he cries so hard I hear his howls from the road as I fiddle with my keys - for a summer night, it is so cold. I am so focused on getting out that I forget the most important thing possible - the poster.
Over a year later I text him, ask if I could please have my poster back. He tells me no, he doesn't think it's fair to ask for something that I clearly gave to him so much later. I tell him the truth: my father's health is failing him, and this poster was a gift to me that I happened to hang in his apartment. That regardless of his feelings toward or about me, that poster would mean so much to me when my father is gone. I receive nothing but radio silence from my ex-best friend.
"Hey, look, they did a video about everything wrong with Demolition Man," I say to my new partner, feet curled up beneath me on the sofa, flipping through YouTube on the Roku.
When the 16 minute video is finished, I glance in my boyfriend's direction. He is smiling with his eyes, and I smile back.
"That's a weird movie." he says, shaking his head and fiddling with his phone. I stare at the screen for a few more beats before flipping to another video, something else mindless and funny to watch.
"Yeah," I say softly, "but I love it anyway."