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O Solo Mio

By Chris Colcord

Fort Wayne Reader

2014-01-13


There have been two instances in my life where I have gone to a movie theater and discovered that I was the lone person in the audience once in 2002, at the old Holiday Theaters on North Clinton (to see Femme Fatale, by Brian de Palma), and once at Cinema Center downtown in 2006 (to see For Your Consideration, by Christopher Guest.) Both times, the experience was so odd and dislocating that I couldn't really enjoy the movies at all. After taking my seat I kept waiting for the "audience" to show but it never did. Every five minutes I kept swiveling my head around, imagining sounds, certain that someone was taking a late seat or that a knife-wielding psychopath who had bought out all the tickets was tiptoeing in the aisle behind me and preparing for his coup de grace.

If there had been one other ticket-buyer in the theater just one I know I could have watched the movies in relative comfort; something about another person being in the dark with me, anyone, really, would have made all the difference in the world. But that person never showed; it was just me alone, again, effortlessly turning what should have been a simple, pleasant night out into something fraught with dread and existentialistic complexity.

Of course, the kicker is, the reason I went to see both movies in the first place was because I was feeling a bit hermetic and monk-like; I needed to break out of my reclusiveness, I thought, and mix it up with the people, and what better way than to go to a movie with an audience full of boisterous fans? And so, inevitably, I choose the only movies that nobody in a city of 300,000 people would ever possibly want to see. And this for my big night out, for my re-entry back into the land of the living. It's the kind of thing that's so grim and perverse you can't even laugh it off.

What I couldn't get out of my head, though, both times, was how shockingly, pathetically, rejected I felt at the theater. And really, that's the only word that applies: rejected. There's no earthly reason why I should have felt that way, but I did. I took the sight of all those deserted seats personally. Not one human in the whole city shares my interests?!, I kept thinking. How can this be? It was like there was some cosmic referendum on my peculiar taste and awkward timing taking place. I toughed it out, of course, because I'm stubborn, watching both films in their entirety in spite of my scatter shot concentration, but it was a disturbingly alienating experience.

Alarmingly, I'm starting to discover that as I get older, that singular feeling of being "the only guy in the room" has become more and more pronounced. Maybe I've become a tad too self-conscious, too self-aware (ahem: paranoid), but I've noticed that, out in public situations, I've found that I'm the "only guy" doing, well, a number of things: the only guy without a smart phone; the only guy smoking a cigar; the only guy singing/talking to himself; the only guy with his infant daughter at the library; the only guy furiously scribbling on a notepad as he's walking; the only guy who never locks his car door; the only guy making eye contact with everyone on the street; the only guy reading a book as he walks. Etc, etc. It's not everyday, and it's not constant, but I get enough stray looks and curious expressions to know I'm not just imagining that I come across a bit differently than much of the crowd.

I'm sure that none of these peculiar little habits are that noteworthy, or that shocking, and I know that in a different neighborhood I'd probably blend right in, but right now, in my current address, I feel incredibly conspicuous. And it's not a pleasant feeling. As that great alienation song from the Beta Band, "Round the Bend" says: "I found myself at 90 degrees/to the rest of the world/It's not much fun, you can take it from me/I'm not having too good a time. . ."

And okay, I recognize that I'm one of those strong-personality types, that I'm eccentric and odd and all that, that I don't know how to tone it down all the time, but please know, this is not something that I actively cultivate; I'm not trying to be "different" for the sake of some unknown audience. There are a lot of days I wish I could just blend right into the sidewalk and not be noticed but my personal "whatever" keeps flagging attention. I used to think that this condition was specific and unique to me and me alone, but I think I'm starting to realize that this alienation, this sense of being the "only guy" out there is probably something that everybody feels at some point. An inevitable modern-man problem. A post-modern condition.

It's odd, some days, no matter how old you get, life is still like high school in that you just wish you could fit in; nobody wants to be the "only guy," the loner, the easy target, the eternally isolated. Some days, you'd almost trade in all those oddball, delightful, quixotic things that make you unique, just so the mean kids won't notice you and everybody will leave you alone. Sometimes, just being yourself is just about the most defiant act imaginable.

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