In winter 1993, I socialized with two engineering classmates named Susan. Susan One had long red hair permed to a glorious frizz and cystic acne that made her cry. Susan Two was a sweet-tempered plump Latina with unconventional Nordic features. Since the three of us frequently collaborated on projects, we often socialized on our down time. This Friday, we debated over what movie to watch in the lobby of a mall cinema. The Susans were undecided and I pleaded for anything that wasn’t a romance. Neither of them was interested in seeing Leprechaun, so we were at an impasse. When a noisy cluster of my Nukestock friends arrived to see Groundhog Day, the solution seemed simple: merge our two groups for the best evening ever!
Susan One grumbled since she wanted to see the Christian Slater film, but the compromise sat well with Susan Two and me, so we joined the Nukestock crowd. Loaded with sodas, popcorn and red licorice, we selected seats as shoddy theater ads scrolled before us. Vaughn remarked that the ads resembled xeroxed business cards. Chris produced a laser pointer and bounced its red beam on selected words for humorous effect.
Obviously, this This required musical accompaniment, so I sang words to the tune of My Favorite Things. Soon the Nukestock crowd joined in. “Musical theater!” someone outside our group cried, and raucous laughter erupted amongst the audience. What a delightful evening!
Susan One, however, was not amused. She announced that she was leaving to watch Untamed Heart (with Christian Slater). I assured her our antics would cease the moment the film began, but to no avail. I glanced at Susan Two, who gave me a sad, conflicted look. As their dark forms exited the theater, tears welled in my eyes. They abandoned me. My Nukestock buddies piped down but joked to comfort me. I sat slumped and sullen until Groundhog Day began, then slipped away to find the two Susans. Susan Two was happy to see me in a strained too-friendly way that left me wondering if she was sincere or smug.
I simmered through every dull, insipid moment of Untamed Heart. To tolerate it, I tabulated the parts I loathed the most. Ugh. What do you mean you have a *literal* baboon heart? Oh, God, they’re kissing, again! This dialogue is so corny I am embarrassed for the actors. And so on. I missed my tribe, the odd, eccentric, the fellow haters of romance. Yet, the Susans had a right to their tribe. As excluded as I felt when the Susans left me, how must Susan One felt to storm off? Susan Two was a peach to join her. After all, I had six hilarious friends to hang out with.
After the movie, I sulked as the Susans chattered about the romantic scenes of the film. I longed to remind them I despise romance but kept this to myself. Finally, I gleaned that Susan One had a Christian Slater crush and was too embarrassed to state so outright. I regretted not reading between the lines. A movie is a stupid reason to piss yourself off.
I said, “Good grief, Susan! I would have seen anything if I knew!” She replied, “Well, I dunno. It just seemed silly to mention it.” “Pffft! I’d drag you guys to Albuquerque to see Gary Oldman shirtless!” I said. They laughed. All forgiven.
In six months the Susans graduated and moved away. Susan Two quickly married a wealthy South American. She confessed her degree was for prestige, not practice. It was an expectation from her family, just like military service is for some men. No matter, she is now a happy grandmother to a dozen sweet-tempered grandchildren. Susan One had a harder time. She was diagnosed bipolar and sent me several sad and disturbing letters before vanishing completely. I’ve tried to track her down to no avail. I miss her very much. My Nukestock friends still play with lasers and engage in fascinating adventures I “like” on Facebook.