"Language has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone, and the word solitude to express the glory of being alone."Paul Tillich
"Why you so pathetic one?"
I've totally forgotten about this post. I had it in draft since September, 2007.
I can't remember who said that to me. I have a few likely candidates who could have wafting about in my mind like half-formed spectres dancing on my finger tips, but when I try to close my hands around them, they would dissipate and drip through the crevices between my digits like smoke. That's precisely how it feels like when I try to recollect something old and expired. I have a terrible memory, a trait which my Dad insist I, his eldest spawn, inherit from him.
"Why you so pathetic one?"
That was the response I got when I told someone, whoever that was, that I routinely visit movie theatres alone. It was a remark indicating a little bit of pity (not sympathy, that's different) and whole lot of 'Damn, I'm glad that I'm not you' laced with a sprinkling of malice. It's as if my solo trips to the movies were circumstantial rather than preferential (they were not). You'll find that catching a movie alone is an experience of a different sort, if you've ever bothered to give it a try. Not having someone leaning towards me and asking me in a much-too-loud whisper every two minutes to explain the latest turns of the plot is definitely a plus, and there is also a liberating sense of anonymity which allows me to be as uncouth and uncultured as I like. And besides, it's really hard to find someone else who shares my enjoyment of third and fourth row seats from the front, where the big screen is positively looming.
Last September during the mid-year hols, I've discovered a new haunt, the recently opened MBO cineplex of Melaka Mall (formerly Kotamas). My ol' retired Dad, who too has a propensity to hit the movies own his lonesome (Darwin much?), recommended the place to me. One tenth of the mall has been reopened, but no big name brands or popular chain restaurants yet, unfortch - so it's probably doomed to fail again or become one of those hubs for Malay delinquents, cut-price Nazi skinheads and Chinese ah-beng lowlifes to loiter about like what Plaza Hang Tuah opposite the old bus station has become. Not good for business, see?
Desolate is the word I would use to describe Melaka Mall, with its too-bright antiseptic fluorescent lights, number of lifeless mall rats you can count with the fingers on one hand and bored sales assistants slumped behind counters with a phone in their hands, texting their boyfriends and whining about how much they needed a hug. I was pleasantly surprised to find that an old Cantonese rock song by the now-disbanded Beyond were blaring resolutely from the PA system - played by a Malay disc jockey, half-hidden beside the stage in the atrium. That made the place a little less cold for some reason, and I sat there till the song ended.
It's a song that demanded respect.
The MBO cineplex is at the top floor and it stood in stark contrast with the rest of the place. I think the neon lighting has something to with it, and the colourful movie posters too, which plastered every available surface.
There's a somewhat decent café in the cineplex which I thought was perfect for someone like me who watches several flicks at a stretch, who needs someplace to stone while waiting for the next movie to start (free Wi-Fi too incidentally). That's where I first saw Ben.
Okay, I don't really know what his name is but Ben seemed oddly appropriate to me. Ben is a guy who is either in his late twenties or early forties - it's hard to tell. He has a unkempt mop of lustreless hair on his head which no doubt could stand to gain a lot from a good conditioner. His complexion is dark, quite visibly a result of too much time under the sun and there were permanent dark rings around his little eyes. He is also rather stout in stature, almost Hobbit-like but unfortunately, he has none of the cuteness.
I noticed him because he's alone too. I wonder if anyone has ever realise this, but people who are alone in any given place always form these invisible fraternities on an abstract level. We would always notice each other in a silent, solemn way and acknowledge each other without really meaning to. And if caught the eyes of one of our own, we would experience these flashes of undefined intimacy that are quite beyond the capacity of my vocabulary to describe. It's like understanding, without really knowing anything at all. We feel so far removed from the crowd of noisy groups of friends and whispering couples that we must be sharing a common plane of spiritual existence elsewhere - some sort of limbo for loners.
Ben and I only exchanged a line each - when I was about to enter the wrong theatre and Ben, somehow knowing that I was going to watch the same flick he was, told me,
"It's theatre four."
Concise, but not at all curt. He sounded surprisingly soft-spoken, not at all as gruff as I painted him to be in my mind's ears. Ironically, the movie was The Invisible.
"Thank you..." I replied uncertainly.
We were the only two person in the entire theatre, with him sitting right at the back and I in the third row from the front. That's why I like going to the movies on a weekday afternoon - I get to have the entire hall to myself, almost. Back when I was working in GSC, I was told to to refund tickets if there were too few customers per screening (something to do with the profit versus cost ratio) but MBO apparently doesn't follow that practice. I hope they aren't operating at a loss. I really like that place.
Ben does too, I guess. I see him almost every time I went there during my month long holiday. And he was always alone.
"Why you so pathetic one?"
I hope he has a girlfriend now.
PS: Another thing about the MBO cineplex is their awesome manager, who I first met when I was inquiring about a novel I carelessly left behind in one of their halls. He had a gender-neutral name like Jackie or Leslie, but I can't recall what it was exactly now. I couldn't tell whether he's Malay, Chinese or Serani either. He took my number, promising to give me a call as soon as my book turns up - which did. He dropped me a line a few days later, and we talked a bit about movies and cineplexes (seeing that I worked in one before) when I went to retrieve my book. He's heckuva friendlier and warmer guy than my old boss at the GSC at Mahkota Parade mall, I can tell you. Boycott GSC! Support MBO!
Movie freak foh loife,
k0k s3n w4i