An Empty Cathedral (A Short Story)

crying-circus

We were at the Mexican Cantina drinking beers and watching some game on the TV. I didn’t care for what was on and neither did Ted, but when the crowd roared, we roared.

There were two chicks at the bar. One had auburn hair, a red low-cut dress and very very long legs topped off in black heels. The other was a dirty blonde, a squished sort of face that pointed inwards. She wasn’t unattractive, but child-like, soft around the edges like she would grow into the rest of her face with time. She had some gaudy jewels on her hands, black nail polish, and this gold bangle that could neither be comfortable nor fashionable.

Fortunately, Ted wanted the blonde.

We scuttled over to them and ordered some more beers for ourselves. They knew our intentions right away, so Ted didn’t hold back, “How are you ladies doing tonight?”

The blonde raised an eyebrow to her friend who met her gaze with pursed lips. As far as I can tell, this relayed some sort of telepathic message between them that said, ‘these guys are alright,’ because they encouraged our advances.

“We’re doing alright, how are you?”

And just like that, we were in. In our lives we didn’t know much about women, but we knew one thing, if our obvious flirtations were not immediately met with, “Sorry, this seat is taken,” or some variation of “No” or “Go Away,” then we were cleared in the ‘attraction’-pool. It didn’t mean we couldn’t fuck it up, but it at least meant that we were deemed handsome enough for light, erring on playful, conversation.

Of course, if they found out I was a student and he was a ticket taker—

“I work at the movie theater.”

No, God damnit, Ted.

“Really?” Their interest waning.

“Sure, wanna see a scary movie?”

Wait, what was Ted trying to pull…

“Isn’t the theater closed?” inquired the brunette.

“Yes, but I have the keys,” Ted pulled out a key ring and twirled them in his hand and… to my astonishment, pulled this bad-boy motion off. Sly devil.

The two girls were hooked. To be frank, I was hooked. I had no idea Ted had taken the keys, but we may have just won our middle school fantasy of hooking up with girls inside a movie theater. Excellent.

Ted worked at the Class Cinema in the mall. It was on the top floor (which meant fourth), but there were several floors within the theater to take patrons to each room (i.e. a fifth and sixth, but second and third within the theater. Capiche?). The mall was erected around Class Cinema as the centerpiece. A centerpiece it was! It felt like going to an event, like the circus. The windows went from floor to ceiling and this was impressive as the ceiling was two stories above. It was an open room, like the lobby of a grand hotel where you could look up at all the various rooms above, and the escalators were expertly placed adjacent to the windows; so as you go up, the view of the city goes with you. It was a sight to behold; a truly magical place.

I never faulted Ted for working there, but I did fault him for telling people that he worked there as it was almost always followed by a “No” “Go Away,” or “Sorry, this seat is taken.”

Not this time though.

***

We went inside and it was eerily dark. Not even the lighting lining the aisles in the lobby were lit which meant all we had were the lights from the city poking into our labyrinth of theaters. The escalators weren’t running, which meant there was even less of that eventful ambiance — something I quite missed as it left the area feeling stagnate; dead.

But the objective was clear: horror movie and makeout session.

We marched up the escalators while listening to cars and distant police sirens in the city; not being able to see this only added to the atmosphere that what we were doing was… illegal. Whether or not it was, I’m not certain, but since the only repercussion would be Ted getting a slap on the wrist, I appreciated the illegal atmosphere as it seemed to make the girls more drawn to us.

As we reached the top of the sixth floor (2nd within the cinema), the lobby was nearly pitch black. Although I’d never been to a “packed” movie theater, I never considered them empty. This was empty. It was like visiting the circus grounds after everyone had packed their tents and gone away. Nothing but a vacant, dust-bowl lot. Not even the lingering smells of popcorn could brighten the mood, if anything, they added to its chilling atmosphere.

Ted turned on the popcorn machine, the dim light was the only thing preventing us from being in total darkness. The tin pipped and popped with kernels and an odd sort of Claymation-imagery came to mind, like my eyes couldn’t register several frames.

The glow of yellow contrasted to the bright red outer frame and unfortunately, Katheryn hovered over it, making her all the less attractive in my eyes.

Now, Katheryn was the brunette, which I had originally been attracted to, yes, but over the course of dull (going-through-the-motions) conversation, I found her practically repulsive. It was as if her teeth had grown out like a horse’s and her head took on this elliptical shape. Suddenly, even the asymmetrical moles on her face bothered me. And simultaneously, the blonde (Agatha) had become infinitely more attractive.

Agatha was animated in conversation and her childlike face did not stay squished because when she spoke, she spoke with her whole face, which was extremely expressive making her all the more appealing. To see her retreat from a Cheshire grin into her childlike face made her beautiful. It wasn’t what she talked about, but the way she talked about it. I was bummed that Ted must’ve realized this long before we called dibs.

Although, it didn’t seem to matter too much as both Katheryn and Agatha appeared deeply interested in Ted.

“Do you do this often?”

“All the time!” said Ted, “Though usually it’s just me and Chris.”

We’d never done this before. Ted was on his A-game though. “Do this all the time?” they asked… That’s clearly code for “with other ladies,” but Ted made the save with a platonic bromance – well done, sir. Well done.

I poured some Coca-Cola from the fountain and quickly offered to fetch some for anyone else. Ted and Agatha appeared alright as he had his arm around her waist at this point and was whispering how spooky the movie would be. Katheryn however came over for a Diet Coke, which I assumed meant that she was willing to buddy-up with me for the evening.

We get inside the movie theater and Ted performs some theatrics running about the empty cathedral. It wasn’t long before a game of Hide-and-Seek broke out. Katheryn and I hid low by the arch to the emergency exit.

We couldn’t have been there long, but I think Agatha assumed we’d want to be alone. This seemed like the perfect opportunity for her to find Ted and have a mild romance that would be recounted years later to her kids as a playful evening when she was younger.

Katheryn and I were huddled together, trying to look as thin as possible so that, should Agatha turn a corner, we would just appear to be a piece of the wall. Our arms were touching and she had smooth skin. I could feel the warmth radiating off our two bodies. Every exhale she made wafted onto my neck, sending a tender chill down the hoop of my shirt.

The sound of shuffling feet made me lower my head further, our faces now level with one another. I brushed my lips against her cheek and gave a small peck to her lips. She pulled back and met my eyes… In that instant, she looked scared… and utterly beautiful. We kissed.

“Found you!”

I jumped back, tumbling gracelessly down the slanted ramp. Katheryn looked back, but I couldn’t tell if she was glad or not to have been cut off. Agatha and Ted stood smiling arm in arm while Katheryn and I rose like nohing had happened.

Maybe nothing had, but it was worth remembering.

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