“A long way away on a rock at the edge of the world, lived a woman with terrible claws, wings of bronze and breath as foul as corpses. Her hair was a nest of poisonous snakes. Hissing, alive. Catch her stare, and she could turn you to stone.” – The Storyteller from Perseus & the Gorgon, an episode of Jim Henson’s Storyteller.
I like to sit alone in large movie theaters by myself. I do not like when the second, third, or fourth person arrives to spoil my solitude.
Even when people arrive, in the most crowded of theaters, the lights go dim, and everyone ignores everyone else and we stare at the screen like we’re alone with our lovers and children next to us – but individually alone and locked up in our own eyes and ears – alone and all alone in a crowded room. Still, I prefer to be literally alone in theaters, not just metaphorically so. I like to make the metaphors real, because they spiral beyond the easy metaphor into new realms of meaning.
Alone in the place where I should be alone in a crowd is what I prefer. All the empty seats become the illusionary crowd of ghosts and quantum possibilities. I am sitting in this chair that’s shaped like a plush tombstone. In other planes of sensation, all of those chairs are full with just one person alone in a theater. We’re all ghosts for each other, in our silver-screened cemetery. The movie rolls – and all these plots are the same if you see enough of their loves and quarrels – pulling a narrative out of the memories in my head. The memories replay and replay until I forget the details and the film falls further into the stylized techniques of idiosyncratic directors. Finally, even these narratives fade to mythic languages, gibberish child-speak towards a rushed conclusion. Then, the music plays and it’s just a list of words, mostly names and what they did in their life, like an obituary.
And then, we’re all alone staring at the empty screen of our own forgotten life. Mysterious sounds at the edge of language, like audio hallucinations, are all that’s left of our mind, from the people in the hall outside our theater. We strain to listen, but we can’t make anything out. Somewhere people are laughing, running, talking to each other.
And we’re all alone in our theaters.
I imagine statuary in my garden, blind and mute. Something inside of them retains the vibrations of weather and the slow pain of erosion. What it was like in our stone gardens? Like sitting in a theater, all alone.
In my empty theater, people arrive a little later and talk too loud about where they should sit. They rattle popcorn and icy beverages and contraband flasks of tinkling metal and glass. Their clothes make annoying swishing sounds while they walk down the aisles, still talking. That’s not the worst, though. When it’s quiet enough you can hear their clothing brushing against itself, then their intrusion is terrible – just terrible.
More people come. Then a few more shout for their families over the previews and opening credits.
We are then, all of us, metaphorically alone in the crowded theater.
At the end of the show, I stand up and exit the theater, eyes pressed to the ground. I drive home in the dark to a stone garden. There’s a fountain in the center, carved into nymphs and ancient gods.
The sound of water drowns out the city beyond my walls. Here I can rest in peace from all the noise and confusion.
Inside my home, I turn off the lights and watch the ceiling fan spin in the moonlight and the street lamp glow like the way the milky way is spinning in the dark in the great, big cosmic eye of space and prophecy.
I know everyone’s future. I don’t need to hold the eye to see it all. Matter spins off into the long night, growing farther and farther away from each other and all the walls of our shared creation narrows down in the expansion. Galaxies and burning nebulae; lost souls of time fading out from the end credits.
I’m getting patient in my centuries. There’s no need to look upon anything with my old camera lens like a cyclops’ eye, like I used to do. I rarely bother making photographs, anymore, to hold reflections still. It’s all stone gardens soon enough.