I’m not sure when I became the person who takes a bottle of wine into the cinema on their own. At fourteen, my movie marathons were accompanied by awe-inspiring sweets and crisps binges; at some point I progressed to the adult version. In time, I’ll be covered in cat hair and a trail of birdseed will spill from the bin liners I carry. It’s Tuesday afternoon at the Vue Cinema, Shepherd’s Bush. I’m in the ticket purchasing area having just watched “We Need To Talk About Kevin” and about to head in to “The Help”. A woman in a grey suit holding a clipboard makes eye contact with me in a way that’s beckoning me to stop. Slightly tipsy, I oblige.
WOMAN: Are you interested in two free tickets to a movie?
ME (pausing slightly, wary of the sales catch): Um, maybe.
WOMAN: All you have to do is put your name on this list and the tickets are yours. We’re screening “Red Dog” here on Thursday.
ME: Ah, that’s an Australian movie! (Nostalgia’s making me encourage her when I should be cutting her off).
WOMAN: Ok, give me your name and I’ll put you down. You need to bring a male with you for our numbers.
ME (thrown by the condition attached to the free tickets): Oh, um, I don’t know who I’d bring ….
WOMAN: You must have a male you can bring?
ME: Well, not really. I’m single so …
WOMAN: And you don’t have any family here? A brother? Cousin? (My Australian accent should indicate that my family are not Londoners).
ME (starting to feel pressured): Well I have males I can bring, but they all live in other parts of London and won’t be free at such short notice.
WOMAN: So, you don’t have any male you could bring with you? We can’t give you the tickets if you don’t bring a male.
(Jesus Christ, is she trying to make me feel bad? I look at her and just sort of shrug).
WOMAN: I could give you three tickets instead of two and you could bring a couple with you? (Ugh. I’m in a scene from “Bridget Jones“).
ME (pity and discomfort have drifted into the situation so I lie): Oh, no it’s okay, I know exactly who I’ll take – two tickets are perfect! (My enthusiasm reeks of overcompensation).
I put my name down for the tickets, but won’t collect them; her judging eyes have slightly tainted my afternoon retreat. She feels sorry for me, but her pity is misplaced. Yes, I’ve developed some habits that might be described as eccentric, but at this very moment I’m entirely happy – few pleasures compare with a good movie and a “glass” of wine.
Entering the cinema to watch my second movie of the day, I see there are only three other people viewing – all on their own and all men (I wonder if the “numbers” are acceptable in here …). To some people, we’re desperate loners; if we were about to see an adult movie the whole scene would be sordid. Instead I hear the familiar crinkling of food wrappers from three other seats and think of us as innocent fourteen year olds (nostalgia creeping over me again). There’s an intimacy in our united solitude and anticipation of the escapism we’re about to share. I stretch out, take my shoes off, pour myself a drink and wait to be transported to another world.