I was in a theater recently, performing in a production of A Christmas Carol, when an interesting memory returned to me.
When I was a teenager, the theater didn’t have live performances, but ran inexpensive movies. I loved movies, but a movie isn’t much fun to attend alone, and, unfortunately, I was so shy that it was hard for me to ask any girl out on a date. In addition, I was responsible for much of the work on my father’s farm and seldom had time.
But a new movie called Star Wars was showing, and I knew I just had to see it. All of my friends had, and when they started quoting lines or talking about the plot, I would leave so they wouldn’t spoil it for me.
I couldn’t afford to go to the fancy theater where it first ran, so I had to wait for it to come around again to the cheaper one. In addition, when it had first come to town, we were in the middle of harvest, and I was working from before daylight until way after dark.
But a year after it first ran, the movie came around again and was at this inexpensive theater. There was a girl named Mary that I liked, and I mustered all of the courage I had and called her. She accepted my date invitation, and my heart soared.
On the appointed Saturday I worked hard and fast all day, until I was absolutely exhausted. I milked the cows and worked through my evening chores as quickly as I could, then showered and dressed in my best clothes. My heart pounded, and I could hardly breathe as I drove to Mary’s house.
I walked to the door and rang the bell. Mary’s mother answered, and when I asked for Mary, she said, “Mary isn’t here. She’s gone on a date.”
I guess the look on my face must have said a lot, because she seemed to realize something wasn’t quite right and quickly added, “But I’ll make sure she knows you dropped by.”
I walked back to my car, feeling like I had just crash landed on earth. I wondered if I should go to the movie or just go back home. I knew I wouldn’t have the courage to ask someone on a date for a long time, and I might never get to see the show again, but it wasn’t fun anymore.
Finally, I decided to go anyway. I drove to the theater and bought a ticket and some popcorn. It seemed everywhere I turned I ran into friends with their dates, and they each asked me who I came with. I always changed the subject instead of answering. Eventually, I was able to slip into the theater where I could be less noticed in the dim light.
This theater did have one interesting feature that I knew about. There was a place in the balcony where there was a solitary seat in a corner by itself, and I quickly claimed it for my own.
I enjoyed the movie, though sitting alone wasn’t much fun, and seeing couples together everywhere made me jealous. I was also exhausted from the day’s work and struggled to stay awake. When the show was over, I stayed in my seat until the theater was almost empty so I wouldn’t bump into any more of my friends. But when I walked into the foyer, I ran right into one of my best friends, and his date was none other than Mary. I think, by the look on her face, that until that moment she had forgotten I had even asked her out. But when she tried later to convince me to try again, I never could.
So, as I waited at rehearsal for my turn on stage, remembering that night long ago, I went into the balcony and sat in the solitary seat, grateful those dating years were behind me.