UNITED STATES—Mary Reno once lived in cool, air-conditioned movie theaters. It corresponded to a period of unrequited loneliness and early need. She was young, not yet out of high school. Mother and father were still together, and then father would leave. He would not see her wear a graduation robe. Mother always explained that he had gone to heaven. Mary naïvely believed the extermination contained in the euphemistic phrase for “The End.”
To assuage the hole left in her, she was drawn into the dark parlors where other lives and places flickered across the screen. “The End” flashed across the screen, the lights went up, and all the moviegoers straggled by to “reality.” But before, when they jostled in. They all brushed against each other in the velvety darkness. There was permissiveness and promise; the conviction that any one of those souls, freshly bathed and perfumed, was hers for the asking. They could be hers even if they were spoken for.
Mary lived at the movies when she was not studying. Study was a snake that invariably stirred in the grass of her moods. The movies had an untrue way of depicting the act of love. With the barista boy she found her voice. The movies had not done the boy much good. What you could see in the movies Mary went to left out all the important parts. At last she woke up and told him what to do.
Mary told him with her hands. She told him with her kisses and sighs. They melted together. They were one flesh. The boy had never done this before. He did not make some riotous noise when he was spent. A shiver ran up and down his spine. He rolled over on his side.
Mary’s heart skipped a beat. There she lay, staring at the fogged-over window. Somebody was knocking loudly on the glass.
“I need my coffee… Is everything all right in there?”
The boy was punchy after love’s exertions.
“Go inside. Get whatever you want,” the boy said to the silver haired man after unbolting the door. “It’s all yours. The almond milk is in the blue box. There’s the decaf.”
The boy yanked Mary’s elbow. She built herself up from the floor and. they went outdoors. Beyond the fogged plate glass, it was bright outside. Blindingly bright. Mary and the boy hadn’t walked a block yet, and the were clinging to each other. They held each other for dear life in the brazen sun.
The old man returned with giant mocha lattes in each hand and all his pockets stuffed with as many croissants and cookies as his pockets could hold.
The pigeons, with their iridescent green and purple plumage, started pecking at the crumbs. Tears poured out of the old man’s crinkly eyes at the sight before him. It was something. There they were, two beautiful fools willing to embrace across the age divide, clean and unclean, defeated and undefeated, to give his tired old heart to joy to make it pulse again with anticipation for all the tomorrows.
Graydon Miller is the Wizard of Fiction.