The Last Projectionist
by Maddison Scott
The girl comes in every Tuesday morning and orders a small popcorn, small coke and if it’s hot outside, she gets an ice cream too. Chocolate, I think, but I can’t tell from up here.
She eats a little layer of popcorn off the top during the trailers but always waits until the movie starts until she really digs in. She likes comedies but every now and then she sees a drama too. This week she saw one with a bunch of old British actors who don’t seem to do much but sit around and drink tea. She always laughs, even though she’s alone, and sometimes I wonder if she wants company.
I think it would be creepy if I went down and asked to sit with her.
My boss calls up today and tells me the day has come. The stench of redundancy has hugged the walls of the projection room for months. I always thought that if I loved my job enough—if I was good enough at it—it would always be here. I’ve spliced and plated and threaded film. I’ve watched film fly from platters and burn on screens. I’ve injected my soul into something that could never last.
Now, I’m told to find a new place in the world. Shoveling popcorn into the mouths of hungry teenagers isn’t even an option. It turns out you can be overqualified to work a cash register.
The woman comes in today even though it’s Monday. Her red hair bounces like a flame under the downlight in the cinema. She’s wearing a dark dress with a beige jacket.
Today is the day, I think.
She can’t see me through the tiny porthole in the cinema and I wonder if she’ll find me attractive. I’m not so old and I dress okay. I probably should’ve shaved but she might not mind. She likes Gerard Butler movies and he has facial hair sometimes.
The movie she’s seeing today is romantic. I thread the film and check the platters. There’s a tug in my stomach when I think that this is one of the last times I’ll ever touch film this way. I slide the dark strips across the light, looking up as each cell tells a story. Tiny images in tiny frames can change our lives.
I come back to the porthole to check she’s still there. She is, but she’s not alone. Sitting in the seat next to her is a man. His arm casually lies across the back of the seats and I can see he brought take-out into the theater. If I took her on a date, I’d buy her popcorn.
With a beep and groan, the film begins to roll and I step back, watching as each cell transforms itself into life on the screen.
That’s what we all have to do, I think. Transform.