Yes, that’s right. Earlier today, I got felt up by a stranger at the movies. Now, admitedly, this not the first time that I’ve gotten groped at the movies and I’ll even admit that this is not the first time that I’ve been groped in a dark theater by someone I didn’t really know. The difference here is that, unlike those times in the past, I had no say in the matter.
I went to a dollar theater earlier today to see the movie Red. I went alone, which is unusual for me but I’m off work this week and I was bored so I decided to go see a cheap movie in the afternoon. The movie started at 2:30 so, as usual, I showed up at 2:10, bought my ticket, and got into the theater a good five minutes before the movie was scheduled to begin.
Well, even though I arrived early, the theater was packed with people. I was shocked to see how many people were packed into that theater and, as I’m a bit claustrophobic, I nearly turned around and left.
But then I spotted two empty seats at the very back of the theater, apparently the only two empty seats left. They weren’t a part of an aisle, instead they were just two separate seats that sat at the very back of the theater, one located next to the entrance and one agaisnt the wall. I settled into the seat against the wall and the lights slowly went down until the theater was dark.
As always happens, people continued to step into the theater even after the movie began. One of them grabbed the last empty seat. The rest would simply come in, stand at the back of theater, loudly discuss if there were any empty seats, and then debate what they were going to do. A few ended up standing in the back of the theater while the majority left.
And one dark shadow, spotting the previously empty seat next to the door, decided to search the dark for any more empty ones. Out of the corner of my eyes, I watched this shadow as it slowly approached my seat, vainly moving his hands behind him as he searched for seats that were not there.
(I say “he” just because the shadow was tall and heavy-set and it moved with a determinedly masculine gait.)
As the shadow grew closer, I whispered (because the movie had started), “I’m sorry, there aren’t any seats here.”
Yet the shadow continued his approach, still fumbling in the dark, and I thought to myself, Damn, he didn’t hear me. If I’m in a room full of people (especially a room full of strangers), I get shy and my voice get much softer. It takes more effort for me to form my words, largely because I’m scared I’ll slip up and my stammer will come out and then some stranger will delight in repeating my words back to me with an exagerrated stutter.
So, it’s probable he did not hear me the first time I spoke. And it’s just as likely that he didn’t hear me when, as I realized he was about to be standing directly in front of me, I repeated myself a second time.
As he reached me, I felt his searching hand brush against my shoulder. As I tried to shift over to the other side of my seat in order to avoid his touch, I started, “I’m sorry–“
I lost my words as his hand suddenly cupped my breast.
I wish I could say that this was a moment that I kicked ass. I wish I could say that, at this moment, I said something so witty and so clever and so brilliant that the man dissolved into a pathetic puddle of insecurity. I wish I could say that I screamed so loud that everyone else in the theater turned and stared before then jumping up and coming to my rescue. I wish I could say that my left leg immediately went up and, in a dazzling display of self-defence, I quickly turned this man into a eunuch.
But that’s not what happened.
Instead, like many before me, I said, “Excuse me, there’s somebody here.” because I wanted to believe that this was all just a misunderstanding, an accident. I said that because I wanted to believe that the man was just making a mistake, that he was still just searching for his seat, that he would be red-faced with shame when he heard my voice.
And he could have been. I don’t know. All I know is that, without a word, the shadow removed his hand and then left the theater.
And I watched the movie, feeling numb and unsure as to what had just happened. At first, I just silently cured the man for being such a dumbass and I thought to myself, He could have at least apologized. I was so happy that the situation was over that I decided to forget about it and enjoyed the movie.
About 90 minutes into the movie, I realized that, as much as I kept telling myself that I wasn’t thinking about it, it was actually the only thing on my mind. I kept telling myself that it was just something that happened. I’m a D-cup and whenever I’m in a crowded space, I know that there’s a chance that someone’s going to brush up against them accidentally. It’s something that I usually joke about. It’s a fact of life and I’ve always prided myself on the fact that I’m not one of those large-breasted women who tries to hide her boobs or who acts all offended whenever she catches someone looking at them.
C’mon, Lisa, I told myself, it was just an accident.
Except it didn’t feel like an accident. I sat there and tried to convince myself that his hand hadn’t grabbed my breast, that it had instead just accidentally fallen on it. But if that was the case, why did his hand seem to linger? Why didn’t he immediately pull away? Or had he pulled away? Was I just imagining things now, letting my paranoid mind get the better of me? And, I wondered, why hadn’t he apologized? Why did he respond by just silently walking out of the theater? At first, I thought it was because he was embarressed but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how silly and niave that was on my part. That was wishful thinking. I wanted him to be embarressed because if he was embarressed, then it would just be an accident. Or was I just being paranoid again? These are the questions that haunted me in that theater and they’re the questions that are still haunting me hours later.
And, as I replayed the incident in my mind over and over again, I kept telling myself, “Just because something happened in the past, that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen again. Just because some men are bad , that doesn’t make all men bad.” That’s something that, if you’re like me, you tell yourself and you try to believe but that doubt and fear will always be in the back of your mind. That doubt and fear is the price too many women pay for being survivors.
After the movie ended, I sat there in my seat until the entire theater was empty. I sunk down low into my seat, trying not to be seen and wondering if any of the strangers passing in front of me was that dark shadow that groped me in the dark. When I did leave the theater, I walked very quickly to my car, my eyes darting back and forth in a fruitless search for any dark shadows waiting for me in the parking lot.
And now, as I sit here, I wonder: am I being paranoid or should I have sceamed and kicked? The incident itself is not what continues to gnaw at me.
It’s the doubt that fires up and makes you search for hidden evils behind every accident.
So now, the question becomes: what are you going to do? Me, I’m going to keep on living my life and doing the things — like going to the movies on a whim — that make me happy.
Because, in the end, what else can you do?