The Most Traumatic Moviegoing Experience of My Life Had Nothing to Do with the Film
Let me back up and provide some context.
I grew up in the Bible belt, where guilt is a painful affliction for chaste teenage girls, not all of whom are anxious to have their hymens punctured. There were more than a fair share of stories about girls in my class taking it in the wrong hole just to allow themselves the privilege of "technical virginity." It's all in the mindset -- you wouldn't believe how many girls are capable of engaging in anal sex and convincing themselves that they are saving themselves for marriage. Even for those who don't necessarily buy into the whole "Jesus says it's a sin," dictate, the Judeo-Christian morality ran deep in my hometown. There is often as much or more peer pressure not to go down that road as there is to give it up -- parents, especially the kind responsible for raising my girlfriend at the time, Jessica -- preached it nightly, while mandated Sunday school services hammered it home.
By simple association, I wasn't immune to it, either, even if my primal urges often overrode my malleable principles. It wasn't just eternal hellfire that acted as a deterrent - it was shame, a more powerful birth-control method than any number of prophylactics. In fact, I lived in an "everything but" world -- you could touch, caress, rub, lick, and fondle, but poking, prodding, and inserting was out of the question. God didn't approve. And more importantly, neither did the judgmental eyes of even our classmates.
At the time of the incident, Jessica was having an all out war with her moral consciousness. The guilt, I understood. I felt it intimately, at least for a few days after each sexual progression we made -- after which, I'd swear off all sexual activity like an alcoholic with a staggering Monday morning hangover swears off liquor. At least until I saw her again and the need to get beneath her skivvies overwhelmed me. Guilt was no match up against adolescent hormones -- if life's a game of rock, paper, scissors, an erection wins out every goddamn time.
What I didn't understand at the age of 15 was just how alienating the guilt was for Jessica. The week before, by invitation, I'd gone down on her in the woods. Afterwards, she hated me for it, and all week long, she'd been carrying the burden of that shame all by herself. More than anything, she wanted someone with whom to share it. Misery loves company, but Jessica was riding the guilt train all alone. She was determined that day to pick up a passenger, even if it meant traveling on the shame train another few hundred miles.
On a Saturday afternoon, we went to the movies. We'd gone to see a movie called Dads, which starred Ted Danson. I don't remember anything about the movie except that it involved cancer. The film was screened in the upstairs theater, a converted balcony -- the movie theater had, at one point in the 60s, been a playhouse. It was small, not much bigger than two giant living rooms pushed together, and about half full of small-town denizens desperate for entertainment.
There were two seats, inexplicably, set off from the rest of the theater in the way back. Those two spaces had built quite a reputation, sought out by many a teenaged couple longing for a tiny shred of privacy in an otherwise crowded theater -- they were the only two in the back row, so it was impossible to see what was going on in them unless you took drastic measures and actually turned your head around, not likely when most of the attendees were sucked into the cinematic vortex of Ted Danson and his dying father.
Both Jessica and I were wearing loose attire, notorious for its easy access, offering up several pockets of acceptance -- hands were free to roam either underneath shirt tails or between shirt buttons. Once the lights dimmed and the trailers screened, our "date" began in earnest. The formalities were introduced and then disposed of in a rote succession: Ten minutes of French-kissing, five minutes of copping a feel over her shirt, another five minutes under the shirt, and then the magical unclasping of her bra -- a task with which I'd become a master, capable of doing so with one hand -- a jerking motion -- and the simple flick of a wrist.
The kissing gradually intensified. She was pressing my hand on top of her breast, moaning audibly, oblivious to the rest of the theater. Someone cleared their throat below us -- directed their indignity toward the back row. I whispered to Jessica, "You think they can hear?"
"I don't care," she said, pulling my face back into hers, pulling my hands back on top of her chest, then under her shirt.
I copped, I kneaded, and I twiddled for a few more minutes. I was content to keep the action at this level, knowing that we were in a movie theater where two dozen sets of eyes were capable of catching a double feature.
Suddenly, her hand made for my crotch, pouncing like a feral cat in the presence of a ball of yarn. She fumbled madly above the denim, pushing it to one side, then pulling it back, rubbing it uncomfortably against my zipper, pressing down, and then pounding it with the heel of her hand. I was dough in her hands, and she was making flatbread pizza out of my penis.
She reached for the zipper, tugged at it, gradually pulling it down with tiny intermittent struggles. She reached inside. There was no room to maneuver, no give beneath the jeans, yet she continued to struggle with it, popping loose the button fly, finding extra space to move around, stick shifting it.
My concentration was lost. I hadn't moved my mouth in ten minutes. I held my lips against hers flaccidly, growing increasingly self-conscious.
The speed intensified beneath the folds of my zipper, a jarring back and forth, back and forth, a horizontal hand job. "Please stop it," I thought, allowing my mind to drift elsewhere, centering my focus on the back of my eyelids, willing her hand away. It might have been simple paranoia, but I could feel the eyes of the rest of the theater staring up at us, hidden in the corner.
Finally, Jessica pulled loose from my lips and removed her hand from my crotch. It's over, at last, I thought with relief. I could safely begin the healing process.
But it was long from over. She glimpsed into my eyes briefly, delivering a mischievous look. There was a certain amount of malice in the gaze. A fiery anger, the sort you might expect after delivering an inadvertent insult -- a slight that cut to the quick. She peered back down in between my legs and lowered her head, bending over the arm rest separating the two of us. "Where is she going?" I thought. Surely not. No. No. It can't be.
I gasped, "no," under my breath. The back of her head hesitated slightly. Then she craned her neck downwards, pulling it out from in between the layers of my briefs, pulling it from between a make shift hole, and exposing it to the elements.
She arrived. I wasn't sure, at first. I couldn't feel anything but a wave of shock. Then: A sudden rush of numb warmth. I looked down at the top of her head, bobbing slightly. I scanned the theater to see if anyone was watching, covering my arms over her torso, hiding her, making noises to falsely indicate pleasure, to soothe her ego. But I couldn't feel a goddamn thing. Did she have anesthesia mouth, I wondered silently to myself while pleading for the experience -- my first blow job -- to come to an end.
After a few seconds, even the warmth dissipated. I was floating outside myself, lost. The moment was surreal. People in the theater were crying, and I was in the back getting a hummer.
Finally, after three or four minutes, Jessica pulled her head up, quickly, almost bumping the back of her skull into my chin. She rested her face against my chest, where I'm certain she could hear my heart pounding underneath my rib cage. I could hear her weep, sobbing gently into my chest, sniffling, wiping her nose on my shirt. I gathered she felt relief, having finally exacted her revenge, inflicted her shame upon me. We were finally in this together.
It took me a few more seconds to even realize that my penis was still hanging out, wet and exposed to the rest of theater.
Suddenly: A voice. A loud, piercing Southern drawl that shook me, startled me to attention.
"JESSICA. GET OFF THAT BOY!"
I jumped. I nearly fell out of my seat. I pushed Jessica off me, realizing only then that I'd exposed my dick, flopped over to the side like a limp and deflated balloon.
With my hands, I covered myself quickly -- I was Wile E. Coyote after an ACME mishap blew off his fur.
"GET IN THE CAR RIGHT NOW JESSICA" her mother yelled, staring me down from the foot of the aisle. Her mother. My only thought was to wonder if she saw it.
"MOMMA? MOMMA?" Jessica was moaning. Every moviegoer in the theater jerked their heads around in one collective motion. Twenty-five faces were staring at the two of us, then back to Jessica's mom, whose arms were crossed. She was scowling, blocking the movie projection.
"Down in front, lady," I heard.
Then the faces of the crowd turned, almost in unison, back to me, as I shoved it back in, zipping it up, hiding my face behind my hands.
Jessica leapt from her seat, ran down the short flight of stairs, stormed past her mother, around the corner, and out of the theater, leaving me alone with the rest of its attendees. Ted Danson looked pensive on the big screen.
I couldn't move. I was petrified, frozen in the gazes of the crowd with the whiplashed necks, who quietly turned their attention back to the screen.
There's nothing to see folks, just move along.
I slumped back into my chair and tried to hide behind the darkness, but I couldn't will myself to leave. I wouldn't give them the satisfaction. I'd paid my admission -- I was going to sit this one through, right up until the bloody end.
After another half hour, the Dad died of cancer. I like to think it was Pat Morita, but it was actually Jack Lemmon. The lights returned. I felt naked under their exposure. People began to get out of their seats, put their coats back on, and find the exits, glancing back at me as they walked out, tssk tsskiing beneath their breaths.
I waited until the theater emptied completely before I pulled myself out of my seat and stumbled down the stairs, through the lobby, and out into the cold air, hands in my pockets, staring below, pacing home quickly.