A story of identity and deception.
I was in high school, 16 at the time, and hopelessly involved with one too many romantic films on the internet. You know, it’s really a problem that a young boy like that had so much access to all those films. Used to be you’d have to work to buy a ticket to watch a movie in the theater, back then i’d sit in my room and watch these movies for days, barring myself from any real human interaction. It was just a few clicks away. I would quote lines from movies in school and nobody would get them, almost made me feel like i was in the movies themselves. And i guess they weren’t even nice romantic comedies, they were the realist ones that often ended in sorrow or regret, usually someone died. For some reason those made more sense to me, too often you watch a movie that ends with everyone happy and you don’t feel that, happy endings leave you with some dread; like when is that gonna end? Either way, it was in high school, i was no older than 15.
I guess i wasn’t horrible to look at, never really confirmed with anybody but the general climate around my appearance seemed to be lukewarm. The people i spoke to on a daily basis could be considered friends though i never really felt any attachment to them. I had one good friend, we would watch movies together and he would be the only person who could catch my references all throughout the day. But it took one trip of his to the hospital after a fight we had to turn that sour. I had found out that he was watching these films with a group of some “friends” he dug up and would purposely tell them to not reveal this plan to me for some reason. I had no appetite for lying, pretend was a different story. After that i found some lost souls with enough personality to tease that would do for me. They were shy kids, which i never understood. It seemed to me that shyness was related to some sort of shame of one’s own person, i didn’t think that of myself in the least. It was too easy to speak up, around, and over these kids. All that time spent studying history dumbed everyone down to a level that i could look over, lines from movies they couldn’t catch or references they would look open mouthed at, becoming Brando or Dean was too easy on any given day. I was a snail, crawling along a razor, surviving.
Though i never had a piqued interest in any girls at school they did catch my eye. A moon river lookin’ gal would get me thinkin about taking her to breakfast at tiffany’s. These day-dreams of mine often involved scenes i’ve seen before. They crafted the most beautiful moments in my head. People have kodak moments, they say, when something beautiful or wonderful happens, my moments were from Miramax.
It wasn’t until learning about Tinder that i found some joy in dating people. Instead of getting to know someone in real life and finding their characteristics attractive and deciding, in person, to meet someplace, in person, i was blessed with the facade of a profile. It was a time when i could be anyone. And for a while, it worked.
I would put up a basic bio, some candid photo of myself, a quote or two from a movie, of course without any indication these words were not mine. Stuff like, “I am not a gentleman. I don’t even know what a gentleman is.” or “One day some of the kids from the neighborhood carried my mother's groceries all the way home. You know why? It was outta respect.” things that stuck out to me, ya know. Didn’t necessarily want to impress or deter, just to be there. It would’ve been a miracle if someone actually understood these vague references.
I would get a couple matches here and there, and i would spark a conversation of some sorts, using some tactic from a film, something suave from a good Rom com i remember. The dates never left the phone. They would be quick, short and for a moment i could feel like i lived in those movies, that these conversations could be happening in a diner as the morning grew over us and the coffee kept coming.
Nothing really happened until i changed one of my quotes. I had written, “I’m no stranger to heartbreak.” to which a new match, one who’d i never seen before, opened to me with the greatest first line i had ever received, “Do you have psoriasis?” See, before that i would be met with confusion, nobody really understood i was merely referencing Grease, they took it as me being some weird romantic broken character.
But it wasn’t until this one glorious response that i had chills. After discussing a mutual love for films, we decided the next respectable decision would be to meet and watch a movie together. But before that, as i usually do when i go to the theater, and to which i was even more entranced with, she suggested to grab a bite at the local burger joint.
Truth be told, i was a bit nervous, she looked great in her pictures, like a young meg ryan, and from my experience, the prettier the girl is, the more nuts she is. In fact, when i first walked into the diner and sat across the booth from her, i told her that i think she’s insane because of how pretty she is. I didn’t think she would get it, and somewhat feared i would drive her away from that one possibly missed reference. But immediately after she asked me to ask her what her name is.
“What’s your name?”
With a dumb Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate look i said back, “Go away? That’s a weird name.”
After that, the night was great, we spent an hour talking about film and nearly missed the movie. It was a showing of Woody Allen’s ‘Match Point,’ in which i spent about a half hour explaining to her that my old friend and i disagreed entirely on Allen and his work, and why he was wrong to convict the art of any accusations the creator might have. She didn’t have a look on her face as i explained this but she would occasionally come up with a retort my old friend would have thought of, to which i chalked it up to her having not understood that this film was a retelling of Crime and Punishment, and how incredible that was, something my old friend missed as well. A fact i found compelling enough to exonerate the film.
After the film was over, where i found an annoying amount of yawns coming from my companion, we walked outside and i offered to walk her home, she obliged. On our walk i began talking about movies, i even imparted some things i never once said to anyone. About how i feel lost sometimes because i lose myself in these movies. That i can’t find a way to be myself, so i attach to these characters and use them as a barrier to the world. I shared with her the reason i’m so capable of speaking out to anyone, that i never felt afraid of putting myself out there because i have nothing to put, everything that’s out there is a joke, it’s a reference. After speaking i found myself nearly tearing up, seeing that i had nobody to really explain this to and sort of kept it all in made for a leaky tap. She said nothing, but in a kind, understanding way. And hugged me at the end of the block where i stopped to think for a moment.
As we were embracing, a car raced around the corner and stopped right next to us. It was my old friend. He looked over with an arm out the window and a big smile and said, “come on fuckos, lets go for a ride.” and just as his mouth stopped moving, the girl who i had a wonderful night with skipped over to him, kissed him, and stepped into the passenger side of the car.
I stood there confused, angry, not understanding what was going on until he slammed the side of his car once more with his hand directing me to join them.
Not knowing what else to do i slowly walked over, opened the door and fell inside the back of his car. We drove off, there were no words exchanged except a few cheery glances from Bonnie and Clyde up front. We parked at a nearby lake and i was asked outside for a smoke. I didn’t take the smoke but i got outside with them.
I was asked if i knew why i was there, to which i said “no officer, why.”
“Because, i see what you do with people and i’m not finding it funny like you do. You think you’re a funny guy huh? But we gotta get somethin straight. You put me in the hospital for a month, i couldn’t work, i couldn’t go to school, we paid so much for the care, and all you could do was mope around because nobody invited you to their movie nights.”
I had nothing to say, i found the entire situation drawl and unnecessary.
“Look, i had to put you in your place, you think you can go around lying to all of these people, but you can’t. You’ve never said a word of your own your whole life, all you’re doing is using these movies you lose your life in to show off, you’re fucking stroking yourself off whenever you do this, i know it!”
After a few paces back and forth he stopped and waved his arms as if i wasn’t paying attention, hoping to get some answer out of me.
To which i responded, “Mrs. Robinson, if you don’t mind my saying so, this conversation is getting a little strange.”
He looked up and chuckled, “you just don’t get it do you? This whole little date thing you were on, i made it up, i knew what you were doing on Tinder. I made her fake it all, she had an earpiece and i was listening and recording the whole thing. See, i’m going to do a public service, i’m going to share this with everyone at school, everyone we know. So that you can stop feeling so high and mighty.”
I couldn’t really think of any witty comeback for that as my eyes and mind were filled with rage. I couldn’t stand lying. He had lied to me, she had lied to me. Tears fell from my face as i blinked quickly, not understanding where they were even coming from. I turned around and they laughed.
He grabbed his phone and began playing the recording, laughing at my revelations. I knelt down trying to hold onto any semblance of dignity i had left. I felt like all my movies were being erased. I heard them walking over to me slowly and tried to hush my whimpering.
He knelt down next to me with his phone in hand, quietly playing my speech.
“Hey, i know why you do this, and i’m willing to help you do something about it. I just think you’re getting a little off the rails ya know. Just speak to me man.”
If there is one think i don’t stand more than lying, it’s people telling me what to do, or that the way i’m doing things is wrong. With his plea, i responded, “Sure we’re speaking, Jedediah, you’re fired.”
I turned around, with a large rock i had found on the floor during my fit, rose above my old friend, and began beating his head in as hard as my arms would allow. The phone fell from his hand after the second swing, his eyes showed nothing but confusion. He thought he could predict, or understand me, but i’ll always be a few crooked steps away from them all. The girl stood by in silence, awe, not knowing what to do besides cup her mouth with her hands. Her frame shook with every swing.
After a few moments of rhythmic beating, i felt a lot like i was in a Tarantino movie, so with my red rock in my hand, i rose up and walked over to the girl with her hands over her mouth.
“Zed’s dead, baby. Zed’s dead,” her shaking hands rose up as i swung and a shriek later she was cold and on the ground.
After giving both of them a confirmation double tap i placed them in the car, left the rock on the gas and let it drive into the lake.
At this moment, I didn't feel shame or fear, but just kind of blah, like when you're sitting in the tub and all the waters falling out but you don’t care to stop the tap.
Their bodies and the car were found a few days later, it was a small town so the mystery looms on for who killed them. No Twin Peaks stuff went on, so the police gave up after a while.
“So yeah, that was how my first date went! Does that answer your question?”
The girl sitting across the booth from him was still. She wasn’t sure if he was joking or this was serious, praying secretly that it was the former. They sat in silence for a while, neither knew how the other felt.
She scoured underneath the table hoping she could find some sort of emergency button but only found stale gum. She didn’t know if she was in danger or on pranked, “did this guy really murder his first date and his best friend?”
Before she could run or scream the man boisterously began to laugh, “ahh hahah, you should see the look on your face!”
An awkward chuckle came from her as she still felt uneasy about the story.
“I’m kidding! It’s from a movie i watched, i didn’t actually murder two people, this was a movie! I like doin that sometimes because it’s funny to see how people react. Frankly, i’m surprised, you got this far, most people don’t really keep listening this long.”
“Oh, well haha, that was an interesting story to say the least...”
“Yeah well, it’s good to gauge how people are ya know. Anyway, we gotta get goin our movie’s about to start, almost missed it.”
The girl slowly got up not really understanding what had happened, and followed the man out of the diner and into the theater across the street. He paid for her ticket and the two went inside to sit down. The lights dimmed and the curtains opened, “Match Point” appeared on the screen as the man grabbed her hand, leaned in, and whispered, “you know, this movie is a retelling of Crime and Punishment.”