|The Tamarac movie theater is very popular with the seniors. Tickets are $4 a show except on Tuesday when they are $ 2. At this homey cinema, men are still considered "gentlemen."|
Howard Hurwitz sat down next to me at the $4 cinema. In a theater with about 300 seats, 30 of them filled, he chose to sit right beside me. While I am partial to aisle seats, I sat one in from the aisle on Saturday, thereby leaving the seat to the right of me free. And there Howard plunked himself down, khaki pants and a plaid shirt accented with a black lumbar support brace, his chrome cane parked between his legs.
My first reaction, I confess, was not one of joy. I thought about moving over a seat. I saw other people do it when their space had been invaded. I didn't get up. I couldn't. I was scared the move might hurt his feelings. I was concerned the action would be construed as anti-social (because indeed it is) and I didn't want to make the guy feel bad.
I stayed and proceeded to try and get his attention, say hello, acknowledge him with a smile. How could we share an armrest and not know each other to some degree? I looked his way. He did not look my way. So I looked the other away. In a few seconds, I tried it again. Same thing. This was a tad awkward. (In hindsight I attribute his slow start to being momentarily enchanted by my comparative youth.)
Eventually we engaged in conversation, straining to hear each other over the loud ads. We talked movies mostly. Hey, like I always say, "When at the movies..."* Howard goes to the movies twice a week on average and always on Tuesdays when admission is $2. As it turns out, did not care for American Hustle but liked The Book Thief and Philomena very much. He usually steers clear of comedies and sci-fi; Howard prefers "substance."
Once Dallas Buyers Club started, we stopped talking. When he caught sight of Matthew McConaughey's bony body in a hospital gown, Howard nudged me and whispered, "He should eat a good meal."
We enjoyed the film and sat for while after. I was happy to talk to him. Howard is "retired and working." He works for AARP 3 days a week at a center that caters to less fortunate seniors. Many go to the center to play games, get a good meal, and do some crafts. Howard said he often cries at the end of a day. Howard came to Florida via NJ. He and his wife moved down in the 80's and she passed away in 2002. He was seeing another woman for a while but not anymore. She was a Republican, he confided, and shook his head.
Howard and I were the last 2 in the theater. When the cleaning guy came in, I said, "C'mon Howard, we better go."
On the drive home, I thought about Howard a lot. The old man stirred up all sorts of feelings. I kind of wished I had asked him out for coffee so I could have heard more about his life. And I wished that I had asked him to take a selfie with me.I am glad Howard took the seat beside me. I am glad I did not move away and I intend to return to the Tamarac movie theater on a Tuesday afternoon and find him.
*I've actually never said that before.