My first job was my favorite job—working at a movie theater at a mall in my hometown. A high school friend’s older brother was a manager and hired me on the spot. Despite the many hours of standing around, and coming home smelling like burnt popcorn, my infatuation with movies developed into a lifelong passion. This was the time of Purple Rain, Field of Dreams, and Fatal Attraction, after all.
At 16, I was kind of a shy, awkward girl, but I met so many people that it’s hard not to be outgoing. While lots of other kids my age were out drinking or out “experimenting,” my
friends and I were earning money for college. These are the same friends I saw recently
at a wedding—I connected with them as if it were old times.
What follows is a revised poem I wrote a while back describing my time at the theater. Although it may come off a bit negative, I wouldn’t t trade the experience for anything.
I should also mention that when I retire, I would love to own a one-screen movie theater, or just work at one tearing tickets—if they still have tickets in 2033.
At 16, I worked the concession stand at Circle 6 Theatres,
offering butter flavoring on big tubs of popcorn
and upsizing large drinks to the size of vats.
I envied the folks going to the movies,
entering a dark room to come out the other side changed.
The shopping mall where the theater was located was a Petri dish
of human interaction—young Navy boys on shore leave
trying to pick up high school girls looking to cement their
jailbait status with all of their jailbait friends.
After the late-night movies ended,
I’d walk down the house aisles
to find everything from used condoms to drink cups
filled with chaw. Eventually, I hated it all,
the front lobby hookups and breakups,
the unflushed toilets and syrup-covered floors.
I came home from my evening shift
crusted in burnt popcorn smell while my feet ached
from a burn deeper than flesh or muscle.
Wasn’t until later when I moved away from home
that I did all those things the lobby kids did in darkened theaters.
Now, Circle 6 is closed. The mall once filled with destinations
is home to stores with cool yet misspelled names like
DRESS 4 LESS, VIZIONS, and KOOL SHADES.
Rarely do I smell popcorn and not think about
the hard work of making people happy,
But, oh, to disappear in the dark for few hours
and come away as someone else—I long for it.