[1992 - Louisville, Kentucky]
I need a short break from the reality of my busy life which basically consists of taking care of everyone’s needs except my own. Shuttling our two exceptionally athletic kids to and from school and to various sporting events while simultaneously running the small-time horse ranch and fruit tree operation on our 12-acre homestead, keeps me running in circles. This sounds like a lot but when you factor in my full-time flight attendant job, requiring me to be out of town three days a week for work; it is insurmountable and is taking its toll on me emotionally as well as physically. My husband steps up his game a bit when I am traveling for work and is glad to allow his exhausted wife some “me" time.
The obvious choice for a spur-of-the-moment rehabilitation, is a quick flight to Louisville to visit my sister, Julie, using one of my unlimited non-revenue passes, a perk of being employed by a major airline. Julie is thrilled with this pop-up-mini-vacay and picks me up at the airport with a glass of ice water...just for me...in one of the two cup holders in her sedan.
We are both weird about certain things—a result of our traumatic upbringing—always on the move and at the mercy of our dad’s most recent money-making venture. My particular quirk is that I must have water or some thirst-quenching liquid available to drink at all times; or else, I feel like I am parched with a throat as dry as the Sierra, which sends me into a coughing fit and panic mode. This stems from being left on beaches, while living in Florida, for hours without money, food, beverages, or sunscreen as a young teen. The ocean was our day-care on many occasions and while fun, the conditions were always hot and thirsty and unforgiving. Being a thoughtful sister, she always remembers this and has my water waiting for me.
I can't help but notice the little box of tissues in her console—this being one of her quirky traits—brought on by the trauma of being relegated to scrunch up in the “itchy wool" luggage compartment, located just behind the back seat of the family car—a 1960 Volkswagen Beetle—on family outings for over a decade. This car was too small to accommodate the six of us and someone was always banished to the tiny scratchy compartment really meant for a briefcase or a small piece of luggage. It was usually my sister Julie, the second to the smallest and most physically flexible of the four of us kids. Jeffrey, the baby of the family (even now at 50-years-old) was just too young for that kind of abusive treatment (since he was Mama's favorite) and our other brother Greg and I, too big. Julie was mostly a good sport but usually emerged with a runny nose and hives, thus the tissue obsession.
We arrive at her house only to find that her husband, as per usual, has planned out a non-stop itinerary of things to do and see in his hometown. A huge fan of the University of Louisville—also affectionately referred to as “U of L”—and lifelong resident of Kentucky, he just wants to show off his city and packs in the activities. My sister and I look at the list and burst out laughing. Nope. We are not “planned itinerary” or “tour guide activity" people, our visits always dictated by spur of the moment ideas; so, we shut him down fast. He is miffed by our seeming lack of interest in historic facts, landmarks, and famous local philanthropic celebrities, but we don't care. We have our own agenda...flying by the seat of our pants daily. This usually includes a day at the local shopping mall, stocking up at Sephora (we try out all the tester products) on all the beauty products we don’t really need, followed by a movie or maybe a nap. People-watching and laughing with Julie...our sense of humor: weird, tasteless, and skewed...is an event in itself and we keep in mind that the point of my visit is to have fun and relax. No schedules to dictate our days in the short time we have together.
The next day, after a morning in the mall followed by a quick food-court lunch, my sister inquires, “What do you want to do now?” I am busy giving the lower half of my face a massage. My jaws actually hurt from too much laughter. My spirits have risen, and I feel peaceful, proving that laughter, especially with your sister, is truly the best medicine.
“Let’s go to the Dollar Movie Theater,” I answer. “That movie Basic Instinct with Sharon Stone is playing and I heard it is really great.” She agrees and we head to the little run-down theater that charges just one dollar per ticket to watch movies that are no longer in the major theaters but have not yet been released on VHS tapes, in a last-ditch effort to extract every last dollar from the consumer.
We reach the box office out front and there is just a short line to purchase tickets for this early afternoon showing.
“I’ll buy the tickets and you buy the snacks,” I say as we are approaching our turn at the little window. This is our running joke since everyone knows that movie snacks for two can easily be the equivalent of a car payment. I hold up my end of the deal and pull out $2.00, handing it over and am rewarded with two tickets. The ticket sales lady went ahead and tore off the theater’s half of the ticket handing me back the two stubs. “There are only a couple of us working today,” she explains.
“Okay. That sounds like a really good deal for me,” Julie agrees, rolling her eyes as I hand over the ticket. We spy the second worker rapidly scooping and selling bucket after bucket of popcorn, but we bypass the concessions on our way to get seats. We have both emptied out our purses in the car—keeping only the $2.00 for tickets—and filled them with an assortment of candy and bottled soft drinks purchased at the local Kroger Grocery Store. This has been the norm since we were kids and our mom dropped us off unsupervised at the small downtown Graham North Carolina movie theater every “Bottle-Cap Tuesday” during the summer months when she couldn’t take any more of our rowdy and annoying shenanigans and needed some “alone" time.
The price of admission was seven bottle caps per person to watch classics like The Ghost and Mr. Chicken or The Love Bug, a story about a Volkswagen Beetle just like ours, except without a kid sitting in the “itchy wool” luggage area. We would bring a brown paper lunch-bag laden with seemingly hundreds of bottle caps, collected at Burlington City Park early-on in the summer, which was the city’s brilliant way of keeping the park clean, without having to hire a hobo to do it. Underneath the caps, hidden way down deep in the sack, was our stash of penny candy and if we got thirsty, there was always a water fountain in the lobby area spurting little cascades of germy, lukewarm water. Good enough!
I inform Julie that I need to take a quick bathroom break before the movie begins, but since we are running a little bit late, I want to find our seats first. We push the door open a crack, surprised to see that the previews are already running, and it is pitch black. Trying to let our eyes adjust to the darkness, we slither in through the small space, letting in minimal light. We automatically assume that there will be limited seating, imagining a crowd of early birds bursting with excitement to see this movie just released today to the dollar theater. Moving tentatively, Julie leads us forward, lightly touching the aisle armrests for guidance. She randomly picks a center row and we scoot in easily, crouching and now using the backs of seats to gauge our location. Just shy of the middle seat, my sister starts to sit down. She springs upright like a jack-in-the-box as we hear a throat clearing, “Ahem!” followed by a low voice mumbling, "Erm...someone is sitting here.”
I quickly backpedal, trying to suppress the laughter bubbling up. The surprised expression on Julie’s face was priceless and her little “Oops. Sorry.” made it even funnier. We leave two seats between the invisible viewer and ourselves, trying to be considerate of other late arrivals.
Previews are still playing so after making a mental note of where we are sitting, I run to the restroom. I make it there and back in record time stopping at the large door that is tightly sealing light out of the cave-like theater. I pull it back a bit and creep in, surprised to see that the movie has already started. I feel my way down five rows. This is us. I ease my way past the empty seats and sit down next to Julie, already eating her Milk Duds and sipping her Diet Coke.
“Did I miss anything?” I ask.
“Not really,” she replies so I hunker down spreading out a buffet of Sweet Tarts, Raisinettes, and Now-Or-Laters in my lap and begin to watch the movie.
Basic Instinct is kind of a sexy and risque movie and we immediately begin to hear little, “Ooooh baby's” and “Mmmm, yeah’s" coming from our invisible neighbor.
My eyes start to finally adjust to the darkness and I look around at our surroundings expecting to see a full house, watching this intriguing movie with us. Instead, I see a creepy guy wearing what appears to be a trench-coat two seats away from my sister, and just one other person way down toward the front. All the seats in this theater empty…except two…and we pick seats in the row with the weird guy.
Being raised in the south and taught not to hurt feelings or create a confrontation, we continue to sit by “trench coat” in what is now the “sketchy” theater section, listening to him “Ooh” and “Aah” over Sharon Stone’s every move. Gross. What a pervert, bless his heart...
The movie ends and the final credits roll, and we can’t get away from this creep fast enough. We double-time it out to Julie’s car, not making eye contact as the creeper waves a goodbye directed at us. Out of the corner of my eye, I see that he has a smirk on his face.
Even though "trench-coat" was a bit distracting, I loved the movie. It was a brilliant thriller filled with many twists and turns and sexy moments—clearly enjoyed by our seatmate—but I felt a little lost throughout the movie. I am always ahead of the game in this kind of thriller, usually guessing who the “killer" is way before the end. I ask my sister one more time, “Did I miss anything at the beginning?” “Not really,” is her answer again and I chalk it up to being “off my game”, distracted by the weirdo’s remarks and the giggles we shared every time we heard his low, “Ooooh...baby’s."
I returned to Texas three days later revived and ready to get back into “Super Mom" mode. I relayed the pervy creeper story to my husband, and we had a good laugh over that one.
“How was the movie?” he inquires. “Great but a little confusing,” my reply. He shrugs and we move on with our lives.
A few years later, I noticed Basic Instinct is on HBO and my husband and I sat down to watch it. The opening music soars and the first scene is a brutal murder. A murder that is the basis for the entire movie—the method in which this poor sap is killed—vital to the story-line. Now I understand the story-line and am just baffled that Julie didn’t tell me that I missed the most crucial scene of the entire movie with my untimely trip to the bathroom. Watching it this time around, the plot makes perfect sense and even though I have seen it before, I am on the edge of my seat.
We watch, as the iconic scene of Sharon Stone being interviewed by a team of detectives while wearing an extremely fitted white dress, unfolds. She tantalizes the detectives by un-crossing and then re-crossing her shapely tan legs, revealing a flitting glimpse of bare skin beneath her dress.
I hear a little moan and then a low, “Oooooo, baby,” close by and whip my head around to see my husband smirking at me. I expected him to be wearing a trench-coat. Yuck.
By Lisa H. Owens
Inspired by true events - 1992 in Louisville, Kentucky