Half her body draped beyond the picnic sheet as she lay beside me on the grass. Resting on her elbows to raise her body up so that she could see the screen, she had her stretched legs crossed at the ankle, completely under a spell as the moonlight hit her face at a perfect angle.
They thought outdoor theatres were history. Yet, here we were, at the Brooklyn Bridge Park staring at a huge screen far away as Jesse and Celine walked the streets of Vienna.
I had seen the movie so many times that I could recite the dialogues. So this time around, I preferred the view of her lying beside me. The ends of her long hair fell nonchalantly onto the grass. Her pupils reflected the light from the screen and the tiny dots of lights bounced in her eyes making it magical. She wore a denim overall skirt over a shirt with red and white stripes running horizontally. I drank on every little movement she made; recorded every tiny detail in my retina so I could play it back when she wouldn’t be looking. You know, the way the image stays for 1/16th of a second when we blink, the way cinema dexterously uses this flaw in its advantage, I planned to make it stay much longer. She tilted her head and her lips would curl into a minuscule smile at something Jesse would say. I knew she was fantasizing a version of herself with Jesse, just like I had done with a version of Celine.
However, just like a coin has two sides—after a point all I did wonder was whether she pictured me in place of Jesse because if you ask me, I very well pictured her in place of Celine. In a way, that thought unsettled me. What if she was thinking of somebody else. I felt my heart give an unpleasant tug. I remembered how much of a hell it had been with others before her.
I tore my eyes and redirected toward the screen. I’d rather enjoy the film, I thought to myself. At least I know how that story ends.
Jesse and Celine walked along the river bank.
“What was the one thing you hated about me.” Celine asked.
“Oh no no, we are not doing that here.” Jesse chuckled
“What do you mean? … ” they continued.
Even though I enjoyed her presence, she hasn’t acknowledged my presence in a while. It was starting to feel less like a movie date anyway.
Minutes passed and I lipped the poem they had paid for, to the man on the river bank.
“How come you never wrote a poem for me?” she finally broke the air of silence.
“Uh… What?” I returned without looking away from the screen.
I turned to her. She had her body turned sideways toward me. she rested her face on her palm as her eyes drilled deep into my face.
“Uh…” I was tongue tied. I knew exactly why I didn’t write a poem for her. I knew exactly how the past preys on our present and petrifies us to even dream of anything good even when it’s happening right now. I longed for the days when I wouldn’t be scared of taking a chance. I wanted to.
“You know what I mean” she said, “why don’t you write a poem with the word ‘milkshakes’ in it?”
Her eyes sparkled as she stared at me with her curious eyes. Did she really want me to write a poem for her or was it just a way of grabbing my attention.
Either way, it was working. It drowned out the sound of the movie that played. I smiled at her sheepishly. She returned it faithfully. The honesty I saw in her eyes was something enigmatic. She returned to her native position and started slithering sideways closer to me.
I kept my eyes fixated on the screen. But my ears were sharply tuned to every little sound around me, especially her. Every minute movement she made painted a picture in my head.
“You know,” Celine said as they sat on the giant barrels in the alleyway, “I think love exists in the space between us.”
She slithered a little closer and tilted her head toward me—so close that a mellow breeze blew a faint but pleasant fragrance of her hair on my face. It blew away the baby hair from her forehead along with all the doubts I had in my head of whether this was the real thing. It was. I could feel it now—the peace I had always longed for.
As we walked down the 156th street toward her apartment, our steps slowed down with each one we took. She slipped her arm around mine and gave a slight tug. I turned my head to look at her. She looked up at with juvenile admiration.
“You have the most amazing taste in movies. Show me some more, won’t you?”
I smiled and winked. It made her giggle as she squeezed my arm tighter.
“So, you’d like a present?” I said without taking my eyes off the road. Her head jerked up toward me. We didn’t stop walking.
“When all the songs have been sung” I said.
“When the clock strikes twilight.
When the moonbeams fill into our hearts.
We’ll be awake. We’ll be drunk with each other… Milkshake”
She laughed so hard that tears came out of her eyes. I laughed at the way she laughed. As I watched her laugh on the sidewalk that night, I realised. I realised what they meant when they said “enjoy the moment”.