FORTY-NINE, 2.0

The popcorn was almost gone from Michael’s bucket, and the previews hadn’t even started. Why the hell did he buy it so early? He loved popcorn almost as much as he loved the previews, why didn’t he just wait?

Twenty minutes prior to the movie you buy the popcorn, that was his tradition. Seven minutes out, you go to the bathroom and get that out of your system. Once the previews start, at that timing, you shouldn’t have to leave your seat again until after the credits roll.

As he got older, Michael recognized that he had to pee more often, so he only brought a small bottle of water with him, nothing fancy. no more sodas, no more coffees. Just water to go with the popcorn. The popcorn received two pumps of butter and three sprinkles of salt.

He sat at the end of the middle row, or as close as he could get. Being on the end served two purposes. First, in the event that he did have to pee, he wouldn’t have to climb over anyone. Second, in an emergency he could leave in a hurry and hopefully lead the way for all others to follow.  Michael didn’t consider himself a hero, but dammit he knew this theater front and back, no one should have to suffer.

But now, as he sifted his fingers through the bottom of the bucket, something was off. He’d forgotten to eat breakfast, and in his hunger he’d eaten the popcorn too quickly. He also forgot to sprinkle it with salt.

He looked at his watch: nine minutes until the previews started, which meant at least fifteen until the movie began. Enough time to buy more popcorn AND pee? He’d have to risk it. He couldn’t stand watching without popcorn, couldn’t fathom the idea of leaving to pee during the movie.

Not THIS movie.

It was the last of a trilogy, one he’d been dying to see since he was four years old. This long for a third movie, thirty years, but dammit it would be worth it. So he stood, made sure his coat guarded his seat (as well as the stranger to his left, who gave him an odd look of “yeah of course, bro”) and went out to go to the bathroom.

Fudge, the concessions line was long. He checked his watch again, calculating, slowing his walk while he did the math. Standing in line would take at least twelve minutes, given that each person would take two minutes and there were six-seven people per line. The bathroom would take two minutes as well, but as he thought this an earlier showing of the movie was just getting out.

Risk a longer bathroom wait, plus possible spoilers?

Hell no.

He moved to the shortest concessions line, dumping the rest of the popcorn in his mouth while he waited. He felt a bump at his back, some idiots elbow, no doubt. Michael ignored it, checked for more kernels — and felt a bump again. One more, he’d allow, and then —

A third bump.

He turned, fuming, already feeling his bladder fill and wondering what point in the movie he’d miss — then he saw her face, the girl behind him with the loose elbows, phone to her ear, brushing the blond hair from her face as she cringed. “So sorry,” she said.

He just nodded to her, offered her his remaining popcorn kernels. She took them without hesitation. “Thanks, dude!”

Michael was about to speak but the guy behind the girl caught his attention, the line was moving forward. Michael turned, but after stepping forward he shifted and looked back at the girl on the phone who was no longer on the phone. “What are you here to see?”

The girl shook her head, hanging up the phone, “Nothing, I just dig the popcorn. Two pumps butter, three sprinkles of salt, and a day’s worth of goodness.”

Michael smiled at her.

She smiled back.

Michael missed the movie that afternoon.

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