La Dolce Vita Leads to Hypothetical Violence
Seeing a movie in New York City is almost more trouble than it’s worth. It costs nearly $11. You have to get tickets hours, if not days in advance. You have to get to the theater at least forty minutes early so you don’t end up sitting way in the back of way in the front. It’s always packed. Stadium seating (a godsend for short moviegoers) is not as widely available here as it is in the rest of the country, where I presume people to be both larger and more serious about physical comfort. New Yorkers are clearly not concerned with physical comfort. Nearly everything we do is very uncomfortable.
Therefore, seeing a movie in this city, like doing most things in this city, requires a certain amount of grit and a hypercompetitive attitude that will catapult you past the unpleasantries of actually completing the task. I will see this movie. If all these people are seeing this movie, I will see this movie too. There will not be people all over talking about this movie that I will not have seen, because I am going to see it.
In this manner, we became consumed with the idea of seeing La Dolce Vita in its revival at the Film Forum. So, too, apparently, did many other New Yorkers. They beat us to it on Saturday night, but not so on Monday. We bought tickets on the internet. We got there early. Or so we thought–we barely got the last three seats together in the theater. We settled in for an ass-numbing three-hour Italian commentary on modern culture, and man, did we get one ass-numbing three-hour Italian commentary on modern culture. I sat in the middle and tried not to eat twice as much popcorn because I was the one passing it back and forth.
Midway through the movie, I thought, “How much longer can this go on? I must check the time and find out how much longer this is going to go on.” It wasn’t that I wasn’t enjoying the film–I was enjoying it as much as one can enjoy anything that lasts for three hours and is subtitled and partially obscured by someone’s incredibly large head. But I had lost track of time and needed to know if I would be sitting there for one more hour or two more hours.
I bent down and removed my (silenced) cell phone from the strap of my bag. I pushed a button and its little indiglo-type screen lit up, revealing the time. A whole two hours to go.
Suddenly, I felt a hand smack me, hard, on the forearm. I guiltily squirreled the phone away and straigtened up.
“That’s odd,” I thought. “How unlike Rebecca to smack me.”
Then I notied the woman sitting next to Rebecca was glaring at me.
“Did that woman hit me?” I wondered. “Nah. She must have glared and Rebecca must have smacked me because of the glaring. Maybe I should ask Rebecca. But if it was her who smacked me, she won’t be very happy if I bother her by talking. Though I am going to tell her later that smacking is not acceptable.”
I snuck a look at Rebeccca. She looked quite calm and faintly bemused. She did not look like someone who had just smacked me. The only time she has ever smacked me is to retaliate when I have pushed or shoved her roughly, as if she grew up in my family, which is raucous and pushy, instead of her family, which is placid and softspoken.
“I really think that woman smacked me on the arm,” I thought. “What the fuck? What the fuck? I didn’t say anything. I didn’t shine a flashlight in her eyes. I turned on my silent cell-phone screen for a split-second. And if she had a problem, she could have said something. Or even tapped me. Who the hell reaches across the person on their left to smack the total stranger on that person’s left? Who the fuck does this lady think she is? Does she want a piece of me? She’ll get a fucking piece of me. I will kick her snide little film-nerd ass, right here in Film Forum.”
But then I remembered that on the way to Film Forum, Rebecca had in fact accidentally smacked me on the shoulder when she meant to tap me. “It had to have been Rebecca,” I thought. “Maybe she’s having a day of accidental smacking.”
Two hours later, we emerged, ass-numbed and immersed in Italian cultural commentary, into the stewey August night. We bid Holly goodnight and started for the L train.
“Did you smack me during the movie?” I asked Rebecca.
“No, that was the lady next to me. She smacked you. I couldn’t believe it. I saw her do it and I thought, ‘I can’t believe that lady smacked Emily.’ Then I could see you seething and I thought, ‘I better not tell Emily it was that lady and not me, because then Emily is going to say something to that lady and maybe even start a fight with her in the middle of La Dolce Vita and disrupt the entire theater.'”
Fueled by Rebecca’s apparent view of me as a highly volatile and dangerous individual, and the safety of hyperbole, I began shouting.
“Well, it’s a good thing you did let me think that, because you’re damn right I would have started a fight with that bitch if I’d known it was her who smacked me! You don’t smack a stranger on the arm in the middle of a movie and get away with it! And let me tell you, one of these days, someone is going to touch me inappropriately and get one motherfucker of a bloody nose! I am going to do it, I am going to smash someone’s face in someday. Someone is going to pick the wrong day to fuck with me and I am going to LET THEM HAVE IT!”
As she often does during my violent tirades, Rebecca waited patiently for it to end. I concluded my outburst by throwing several practice punches into the humid air of Seventh Avenue South, which was at that moment full of the exhaled carbon dioxide of tourists who had located the Greenwich Village sections of their guidebooks.
Now I don’t know if I would have had the guts or the ill judgement to actually start a fight with that lady in the middle of La Dolce Vita, but that is a true friend–a friend who believes in the best version of you, but sees the potential consequences of your worst version and tries to protect you from them.