Life, under the lights of a huge flashing screen with full color and stereo sound, is a lot better than what it usually is. It's cleaner. It's more vibrant. It's happier. There's music to come in and rouse your emotions. For kisses, or homecomings, or deaths. When danger is lurking the music gives you good warning, enough to cover your eyes in time. Life is rarely like that. None of us know when danger, or heartbreak, is coming. It just comes.
One night my mother needed my father to take care of me for a few hours, so she took me to the movie theater and drove away. Dad and I went into a secret door and up a flight of stairs. He led me into a room full of boxes; I saw candy that I wanted but would never ask for. We walked past a large machine that was metal and robotic. It had two prongs with reels like bicycle rims--one empty, one full. I watched as he fed tape from the full one through the machine so it joined with the empty one. Then he took me to a seat in front of a small window and the room went black.
A clicking noise came from the machine. Like a train, it clicked faster and faster until something caught and filled a light beam with color. That beam shot through the small square of glass all the way to a movie screen below. Leaning close, I could see people down there. The backs of their heads bobbled while their bodies shifted. It was strange being so high above them. It was as if I didn't exist, as if I were part of the movie being sent down. If I didn't move, didn't make a sound, I could pretend I was in that movie.
For almost two hours I existed in light beams and the rhythmic ticking of cinematic suspension of disbelief.
But no movie lasts forever. Movies end, and after the credits are done scrolling, it all shuts down. The machine goes immobile, the house lights blaze. In no time, I was being led down the stairs and out the special door to my mother at the front curb. It was dark, and way past bedtime.