Ten Questions I Asked After Seeing Marathon Man at the Movies
by Genia Blum
Did you see me in the foyer, buying candy at the refreshment stand?
It won’t take long and shouldn’t hurt too much. A sheet of rubber dam the color of mud stretched across my mouth, and the stainless steel frame’s tiny studs pricked into my cheeks, and when the drill started whirring, I shut my eyes and clenched my fists and pretended I felt nothing.
Did you watch me flirting with the boy behind the counter when he tallied up my coins?
Every weekend at Kentucky Fried Chicken, my best friend, Sharron, filled up buckets with finger lickin’ good poultry. She didn’t have a boyfriend, but she had her own money. Jack told me he didn’t love me, and then broke up with me, and Sharron lent me the cash for a one-way ticket to New York. At the airport, Customs and Immigration stopped me from boarding. I phoned my parents and they came to get me in the car. At home, I swallowed my mother’s blood pressure medicine and refused to come out of the bathroom, but my father picked the lock. Our family doctor came over, checked my vital signs, and listened to my broken heart. I would never tell Jack what happened.
Did you observe me from the back of the almost empty cinema, nibbling on my Milky Way before the lights were dimmed?
When I was younger, my mother took me to see Mary Poppins. Before we caught the bus downtown, she’d bought a hazelnut bar at the grocery store, but forgot about it until after the show. I unwrapped it outside, and it was full of flies and maggots. That was lucky. Imagine if we’d opened it in the dark.
Why didn’t I change seats when your briefcase grazed my foot?
I couldn’t make out the exact color of the coat, but I noticed the narrow, striped tie. My father’s ties were all real silk, and his suits were made by an Italian tailor on Smith Street, across from the Marlborough Hotel, and his camel hair coat, the color of creamy toffee, was soft as a puppy.
Was I distracted by a larger-than-life Sir Laurence Olivier drilling into larger-than-life Dustin Hoffman’s Hollywood teeth?
Whenever I misbehaved, I had to plead for forgiveness. If I disobeyed or lied to my parents, used bad language, raised my voice, broke the sacred rules of etiquette, I’d be ignored until bedtime, and punished through silence. Nothing mattered more than good behavior—and my remorse. I knew I was rotten.
Did your classy overcoat make me think you were a doctor, or a lawyer, or a dentist like my father?
I turned my head when his elbow bumped my elbow, but he stared straight ahead like it hadn’t happened. I moved my hand and put it in my lap.
Why did I apologize?
When I left the house in my beige miniskirt and orange turtleneck, with my brand-new, leather shoulder bag, a birthday present from my parents, slung from neck to hip on its buckled strap, I was certain I looked like a girl from the pages of Seventeen Magazine.
Did you think I was giving you permission?
My palm smashed across the stranger’s face. In the silver screen’s reflected light his jaw moved up and down sorry I’m so sorry and he loomed above me … and retreated, shrinking down the row of folded seats, up the inclined aisle, through two swinging doors that continued pulsing after he was gone. I sank into the napped upholstery, the numbness in my fingers creeping up my arm, my chest, my throat, while my cheeks burned like I’d been the one struck.
Was it like the time my father filled that cavity in my left maxillary molar and skipped the anesthetic?
Marathon Man ends and the credits roll. Dustin Hoffman, no longer running, walks out of the frame. The lights go on, and I leave through the same exit where my groper fled.
Escaping the scene, will I outrun the story?
Piece first published at Bending Genres.
About the Author:
Genia Blum was born in Winnipeg, Canada, and has lived and worked in Europe for over forty years. A former ballet dancer, she resides in Lucerne, Switzerland, where she is the founder and former director of a ballet school, and presides over a dance foundation named in honor of her Ukrainian ballerina mother, Daria Nyzankiwska Snihurowycz. Her work, for which she recently received her third Pushcart Prize nomination, has appeared in or is forthcoming from Assay: Journal of Nonfiction Studies, Atticus Review, Bending Genres, (b)OINK zine, Creative Nonfiction Magazine (Tiny Truths), Essay Daily, Solstice Literary Magazine, Sonora Review, and Under the Sun. She haunts Twitter and Instagram as @geniablum.