The Mar Theater was a location I frequented often when I was in middle and high school. I was obsessed with movies…and a boy named Calvin. One night they intersected causing me such youthful suffering I nearly needed smelling salts to snap out of it.
The Mar only had two theaters. One downstairs. One upstairs. The main floor theater was more historic, bigger. Even the seats were old. So, of course, it wasn’t the most comfortable place to be sitting for two hours, but I couldn’t care less. I was sucked away into fantasy on screen.
The second floor was newer but pretty small. It seemed like they found a big closet or storage space upstairs and decided to convert it into a second theater. Nonetheless, it was still magical to me.
On one particular evening sometime back in my middle school days, I hopped in my friend’s parent’s car to be dropped off at the theater for the only few hours of our young lives where parental supervision was nil. Looking back, I’m sure the parents enjoyed the two peaceful, childless hours as well. It was win-win for everyone.
Bolting out of the car, my friends Hope and Christy led the way into the theater. I thought that they were the coolest girls in the whole school. They were naturally gorgeous, they liked dark Finnish metal bands, they knew what alcohol tasted like way before the rest of us, they had older friends and boyfriends that were edgy and knew how to drive, and nothing seemed to scare them. I had no idea why they liked me hanging around, but I felt like I gained some cool points for just being around them. Everything was more exciting.
Since this theater was the closest to my hometown, every Friday was packed to the brim with all of us school kids. Depending on the movie playing, the population of prepubescent creatures would grow or diminish. Tonight’s movie was a massive blockbuster so nearly the entire school was there. Including Calvin.
Calvin was an All-American jock type of guy. He was fit, but not overly so. He had blonde hair that was often spiked up with gel (which was all the rage back then in the very early 2000s). He was boyishly handsome. To add hurt onto his cliché however, he wasn’t the brightest bulb in the bunch. But that didn't faze me. My tween hormones worked their cult magic on my brain causing me to see him as the perfect specimen for my adolescent desires.
We never really interacted in school. I was one-hundred-percent a French-Horn-toting-band-nerd, and Calvin was inclined to sport. We were complete opposites. The only time we would ever interact was sometimes in the hallway passing each other (we would lock eyes and smile like we both knew some kind of inside joke…whatever that meant).
I looked forward to that time every day.
It was torture. As a gay preteen trying to navigate my own sexuality juggling my first real crush on a boy and not being able to tell anyone about it was too much. I couldn't tell anyone in a school as small as mine. People weren’t as open yet. I also had no idea if he was gay. Since I was in the throes of infatuation, every little thing he did seemed like a sign to me that he liked me too. The brain only lets you see what you want to see sometimes. This has always been one of my biggest faults. So how was I ever going to tell this boy that I thought he was the most handsome boy in school and that I'd like to be his clandestine boyfriend without the weight of all of the kids in school knowing my deepest secret?
Cut back to the theater, Hope, Christy and I found our seats and settled in amongst the chaos. They were sipping on some monstrously obnoxious energy drinks. Why two preteens needed to drink some crazy caffeinated, chemical infused beverage for even more energy was confusing to me.
On nights like these with so many kids, security was on high alert. (Security as in one sad, overweight bearded man walking up and down the aisles checking purses and drinks.) Security Man stopped in his tracks once he saw Hope and Christy guzzling down their nuclear sodas.
“Is that alcohol?” Security Man snorted.
“No way!” and “Yeah right!” Hope and Christy snarled back.
However unfettered they tried to seem about the whole situation, they pitifully gave in to Security Man’s wishes that they “dispose of the drinks in the lobby.”
“We will be right back.” Hope said as they got up from their seats to appease Security Man. I was left to fend for myself in the dimly lit theater.
One minute later out of nowhere, Calvin wanders over and sits in one of the open seats next to me.
“Hey.” He says.
Where did he come from? Was he watching me? Did he know I was alone?
“Hey.” I say.
I panic. My stomach fills with butterflies and I feel like I want to vomit or jump for joy or both all at once but I stay glued to my seat. Time feels like it stops. We look at each other without saying a word.
“Well…okay bye.” Calvin mumbles and then disappears.
I can’t believe this happened. Why didn’t I say anything else? I just clammed up like some stupid idiot. My one chance to say something to my crush and I blew it.
Hope and Christy sat back down and I blurted out, “Calvin was just here!”
“Okay…cool.” They responded back with confusion.
I quickly recovered, “It was random that’s all.”
I didn’t want to blow my cover. No one, not even Hope or Christy, knew I was gay yet. So now I had to deal with this awful anxiety all by myself with no one to confess to besides my own brain, which was currently flooded with questions and replays of what just happened.
I couldn’t focus the entire movie. Great. Now Calvin ruined something I loved the most: movies! Where was he sitting now? Why couldn’t he be within eyesight so I could get some answers or at least some confirmation that his quick and defiant seat snatching meant something? Did this mean he liked me too? Was this his subtle gay olive branch?
I felt crazed.
The movie ended and we got lost in the crowd of sweaty youths as everyone stormed out to their parent’s cars. I saw no sign of Calvin.
And then that was it. Nothing. No more. I didn’t see him again until school the next week where it became the same old routine of us passing each other in the hallway exchanging glances every so often. I was a wreck but nothing could be done. I had to accept this first unrequited love like a prison sentence. It was something I just had to live with.
To top it all off, he ended up changing schools. I never saw him again.
This was years ago and I have since moved on, having added Calvin to the cemetery of unrequited loves in the dusty far reaches of my memory. Still, I decided to open up this wound and share it with the world.