We were walking toward the AMC Theater, just my mother and I, when a certain tide of pure bliss began to wash over me. Like waves in the endless ocean as the tide rises toward one, this overwhelming feeling drew near me softly and slowly, first tickling the toes, then receding a bit, then reaching toward the calves, then receding a bit again, and then reaching the knees, and I’m sure that if I’d rested immobile it would have covered my head in no time, and carried me away, blissfully unconscious and without any trace of protest, in its caressing flow back to the vast salty water. But this tide of pure bliss was accentuated by a constant, subtle reminder: “Enjoy this rare moment of utter peace, because later you will have to go back to your responsibilities and misery. And because if you don’t enjoy this now while you can, you shall always regret not having lived this moment to its fullest.” And for once, I tried to listen to my heart’s advice.
The parking lot, devoid of all signs of human activity, was naught more than a vast labyrinth of stationary cars around which we made our way to the grand entrance. As I saw the colorful façade of the once-profitable cinema, the pent-up anxiety of years seemingly evaporated in the crisp dusk air. It was the second time in my life going to an actual cinema to watch a movie. After all, I usually was too busy to even watch a movie in the first place, and when I wasn’t too busy, I was too cheap to spend anything on movies and thus never watched any other than the couple of passable films available on my mother’s Amazon Prime.
But last night was different. Under that blue moon, we were in the mood for spending money on unnecessary things. For me, it was the first day of Spring Break after a hectic three months in the new year of 2018. For her, it was an unusual Friday night away from her job set aside for time with her baby girl, now an awkward adolescent. For various reasons personal, scholarly, and professional, both of us felt accomplished and happy for once. There was no argument over my overwhelming stupidity, no bickering over my incurable laziness, no harsh rebuke for my cursed clumsiness, no angry yelling over the couple of ostensibly worthless friends that I had.
In this auspicious state we entered the cinema. Though we have lived near it for all of our five years in the country, we had never entered it before. The high ceilings and interior design reminiscent of its bygone era of profitability greeted us as we got our tickets. The ticket lady asked us which film we wanted to watch, and spotting on the bulletin a film a friend of mine recommended, I chose that one, while my mother nodded her beautiful head in agreement. Apparently we either both look like students despite our 24-year age difference or the kind ticket lady was having an especially good day, because both of us managed to somehow receive discounted student tickets instead of the usual adult ones. You see, my mother is almost 40, but looks young enough to be a high school student. I, on the other hand, look 30 despite my actual age of 15. I guess this was one gene the ugly duckling didn’t get from the beautiful swan mother.
Giggling over our great fortune, we sauntered into Auditorium 6, where our film Love, Simon was scheduled to begin to play in a quarter hour. As we sat down to dorky Coca-Cola ads, I contemplated what my friend had told me over text a couple weeks ago. He had said something along the lines of, “It’s hard to keep a constant secret. When you’re finally able to be yourself and stop hiding from the world, it’s like you can finally breathe again.” It was the first time in a very long while that I felt understood in the essence of my heart. Throughout my life, I’ve kept to myself deliberately. Maybe I am afraid of discovery, maybe I don’t want people to have anything to do with me, maybe I have this unreasonable fear of dependency and emotional ties embedded into my heart. I have only hung out with “friends” my own age twice, as in, twice when I was around five years old in the hawkish presence of our respective families, and the only non-school sponsored party I’ve ever been to was the birthday party of a classmate back in kindergarten. This was all before I had found out something was inherently “other” about me.
I have a horrid case of what I myself would call relentless ambition. Nothing is ever enough to satisfy my quenchless thirst for perfection. My level of self-esteem and self-acceptance is directly correlated to my most recent achievement and my ability to keep my mind busy enough to not think, to not worry. A typical conversation with myself sounds like: A 1600 on the SAT? Nice, but what about the next AP Chemistry test? Perfect grades? Fine, but what about making money? A great online job that makes a shit load of money when I want to? Sweet, but what about emotional intelligence? Oh, right, I don’t have any close friends. Fuck. Right. I’m an absolutely worthless piece of shit not worth people’s spit who is destined to be forever alone and miserable through no fault of others but rather through my own social ineptitude. Right. Fuck.
Or something of that sort. You get the idea.
But last night all that fell away like the layers of a peeled onion, leaving nothing but the sweet heart of the pungent vegetable, the essence of my bliss. I loved the movie, and while I had to explain some sections to my mother, who does not understand English when spoken too fast, I enjoyed doing that too. Granted, taking my ultra-conservative mother to watch a film about a gay guy coming out might not have been the best idea for mother-daughter bonding time, but I also wanted to see her reaction. (Yes, I know, classic emo teenage girl.) To my pleasant surprise, she enjoyed the majority of the movie, but was utterly shocked to see the crazy party scenes and the makeout sessions.
We walked out of the theater with all the other eight people in Auditorium 6, desperately needing the bathroom after the long film. Walking back to the car, we couldn’t have been happier. I knew I still had an entire essay in a foreign language to write after getting back home, but I felt I could finally face life’s demands again without killing myself just that much more on the inside. I kissed my mother good night when she went to bed, and for the first time in a very long time, I told her that I loved her. But before settling down to three solid hours of essay-writing, I opened the window and looked up at the stars, also for the first time in a very long time. Breathing in the green grass that surrounded our ground-floor apartment, I whispered to the heavens, “La vie est belle.”