Monday, February 20, 2012

Knight and Kind Stranger, Rescue Me

Sometimes you need a hero, whether he's trying to put the kids to bed or not, and if he can't gallop up to you on his tall white steed, nowadays you can usually reach him by cellular.

I didn't plan on being a lady in distress that night. No, I planned on simply going to a small artsy theater in the affluent city of Scottsdale, Arizona to see an Iranian film with a couple of friends. This small theater I had been to twice before, but I couldn't quite remember how to get there. Instead of looking it up on a map before I left, traditional or Internet, I decided to wing it, fully expecting to recognize the necessary turns I needed to take when I met them. (Yes, I don't have a smart phone. I'm probably the only person on the planet who doesn't have one and lacks the insatiable desire to acquire one.)

Everything in Scottsdale was supernaturally dark when I turned off the highway and headed west that night. Either that city is inhabited by ritzy, uppity vampires who work diligently to maintain their ideal nightlife environment or my uncertainty and poor eyesight made me acutely aware of the absence of any familiar guiding light. I became irrevocably confused between two streets - Goldwater, Drinkwater...huh? I made a wrong turn and then another. Then I circled back to the main street, so that I could yet again take the wrong street to the wrong fluorescent lights that glared like a false, malevolent and mocking beacon. I knew my east, west, south and north, but I had no clue about local landmarks. Everywhere I looked there were fancy low-light clubs, tall dim buildings, fancy (vampire?) people, and I was often sandwiched on the main thoroughfare between sleek, gargantuan hummers and tiny, haughty sports cars which almost careened off my back bumper when I stopped abruptly at lights.

My anxiety grew as the car's clock dialed toward 7pm. That was the showtime for the movie, and I needed to make it before then, because I knew my artist friend did not like missing her previews.

There was hope...until I lost it somewhere on Camelback, Fifth Ave, Goldwater, Drinkwater, Indian School...bleh, it was all a terrible mess. And the darkness was cruel, cruel! I began to twitch at every light, slapping the steering wheel and shouting, Come on!", rushing to God only knows where only to get more confused. The stress of being lost was eroding my practical self, and emotion was seeping into the brain, muddying my already muddled faculties. At one point I considered calling into cars that stopped next to me at lights, pleading for directions from their drivers, but I couldn't tell if that was rational or lunatic.

I didn't have my friend's cell number, and I didn't have the cell of our friend who was joining us. My panic was intensifying as I passed the same little strip of shops that seemed to be the only light-emitting things in Scottsdale. There was only one thing to do.

"Matthew, I'm lost!" I cried into my phone. "And I can't reach Holly. I'm going to be late, and she'll miss her previews. And I keep making the wrong turns, because it's so damn dark. I can't see anything til I'm right on it! Stupid Scottsdale!"

He tried to calm me, so he could clarify my damsel in distress circumstances. After much back and forth and cursing from the damsel (me), he extracted from me the street where I was and name of the theater where I was supposed to be. While he was trying to look up my location, I panicked and hung up the phone, thinking it was taking too long and hoping by sheer dumb luck or by magic that I could finally find my way. Unfortunately, I had lost all sense of where I had begun. And as I was doing another lap, my man called back, asking if I had yet figured it out. Upon my emphatic No!, he told me which way I should turn to make contact with civilization, and I turned the opposite direction (being already in the wrong turn lane). By this time it was after 7pm, and I was desperate. I turned back at the next road and then sped down a pitch-black and absolutely indifferent residential street that made me feel as if I had been inked out of existence. A radar sign flashed "Slow Down - Slow Down" like a ghostly refrain to Matthew's "Calm down!" I braked and tried to breathe in some common sense.

"Everything's so dark! I just need to come home," I sobbed, defeated. "I don't know where I am at all. I'll never make it in time."

"No, you need to go to your movie and have fun," he vowed. "Especially now. If you take a right at the next street, you'll be fine. Goldwater splits off from it."

I took the right, kept right, and then had the panicky feeling that I was again lost as the lane I was in curved away and up into the dark as if taking me to a highway.

"I took the wrong turn again!" I blubbered into the phone in absolute despair, my body shaking violently with freely erupting emotions.

But, no. Lo and behold, on a small hill to my right emerged a vaguely familiar set of red and blue fluorescents, and this time the beacon was sincere, the harbor clear.

"I'm here; I'm here. I found it!" I exclaimed in joyous relief.

"You're there?"

"Yes, thank you, honey. Thank you, thank you so much."

You're not running?" my knight asked after he heard the car door slam. "Don't run."

I wasn't, but my voice was still quavering with emotion as I walked to the ticket window with my wet face and my stricken eyes.

"It's been...a rough night," I said haltingly to the young lady behind the glass. A gentleman in a dark suit and glasses to her left glanced up as he sorted through receipts or cash. "I got lost on the way here. Have two women come through...?" The young lady was gave me a blank stare and raised her shoulders, so I suggested desperately, "One of them was named Holly..."

"Really, I have no way of knowing," she said, but upon my request she gave me leave to look for them in the lobby.

Of course they weren't there, so I asked the lady taking tickets for permission to scout them out, and I promised to come back and pay for my ticket if found them.

In the theater where A Separation was the feature, previews were no longer playing. The movie's opening scene was running, and everything was again dark and impenetrable to me. I had no hope of spotting anyone as I wandered down the aisles, and again I was feeling cursed by the lack of light, but in my dejection I was spotted. My friends waved me down from a center row, and I exited quickly and returned to the ticket booth once more where there were now six or seven people in front of me in line. I would lose more precious time, so I took the opportunity to call Matthew back and let him know I had found the girls.

"Good," he said. "Now get some chocolate to make you feel better. But not that fancy Scottsdale kind! Not the $50 a bar variety. Tell them you want the $20 chocolate."

I laughed at Matthew's joke, and in doing so I felt so much love for this man who could deal with me while I was sobbing and hysterical and, yes, rude with fear over a silly little trip to the movies. And not just deal with me, but treat me with love and kindness while rescuing me and guiding me, then make me laugh after.

As I was hanging up the phone with my Knight, I glanced up to find that the man in the dark suit and glasses had emerged from the ticket booth and was near me.

"Your friends are here?" he asked.

"Yes," I said and smiled.

"Then, here," he said, extending his hand and a stiff bit of paper. "It's on me."

"Thank you!"

I thought he was indifferent to my rididulous plight when I'd seen him earlier beyond the glass, so I was stunned as I followed him through the doors and past the lady taking tickets. My simple thank you did not seem to suffice for this wonderful act of kindness and generosity. For heaven's sake, he had redeemed Scottsdale by his action!

As he turned away toward the offices behind the concession stands, I called again, "Thank you...thank you so much..." but my voice broke as the tears surged back in gratitude.

"You're welcome," he said, and added over his shoulder, "That movie's not going to make you feel any better."

He was right. It was a movie about things falling apart, kind of like my night. Still his generosity did make me feel better, as did the love, strength and calming influence of my man. The boisterous laughter that a friend inspired in the parking lot afterward did, too. Then I finally let go completely over a very belated meal with my artist friend after the movie. We shared wonderful spinach/artichoke dip and great conversation about our high brow soap opera, Downton Abbey, and our super steady and long enduring husbands.

Afterward, I made it home just fine.

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