“Oh, yes, the evening sounds delightful,” she answers in her proper English, with a slight quiver to her voice. Violet’s small, hazel eyes beam, the thin white hair on her head moving as if in a breeze as she nods her head.
“Dinner might be enough. You’ve just only been feeling better,” I suggest. Violet and I became friends while she attended my writing classes. We’re a strange combination: she is an 80-year-old widow from New Zealand and works in a New Age city bookstore; I’m married, decades younger, and work in the suburbs.
“I read the book, Violet. It’s a sweet romance, but it’s sad too. I’m not sure the movie…”
We settle into the plush seats, Violet holding a bag of popcorn bigger than she is. The previews end, the music introduces a pert teenaged girl and her new boyfriend, and we immediately get immersed in a labyrinthine story of a lilting romance that almost crumbles. However, they reunite, happily marry, and raise a fetching family. Except after the children are raised, the couple, still deeply in love, battle the news that the wife has Alzheimer’s.
Halfway through the movie I hear a strange noise, somewhere between the mewling of a cat and the plaintive cry of a hurt bird. I stop crunching on the ice left over from my drink. Yes, I hear it again, louder this time. My worst fears are founded.
Violet is crying like a child whose dog has just died.
I bend my head over to Violet’s, feeling terribly guilty. I knew this movie would be too sad for her. Violet’s husband died five years ago, she lives alone in a tiny home, her family is all gone. Why, why, why did I bring her to this morose film?
‘Violet,” I whisper, “let’s forget the rest of the movie and get dinner!” Violet loves food, something one would never guess by her diminutive frame.
“No!” she answers emphatically. Then she continues to cry and watch the screen. As the Alzheimer’s worsens and the husband sings to his wife, Violet’s tears become sobs. At one point I’m afraid she can’t catch her breath. I sink down into my seat.
Finally, finally, the music reaches a crescendo, the credits roll, and people stand up to leave. Everyone, that is, except Violet and me. Violet is crying so hard she attracts attention; as the lights turn on, I see sympathetic expressions on those able to escape.
Ten minutes later, the tears stop; Violet hiccups softly, stands, and we leave the theater. I can’t imagine what she’ll say to me when we settle into the car. Our friendship, perhaps, is ended.
Quietly, we put on our seatbelts. As I turn on the ignition, Violet says, “Wait!” I turn the car off and look at her. She stares at me, her eyes black and gleaming in the car’s darkness.
“I’m sorry…” I begin.
“No! Wait!” she says again. She pushes out her chest and takes in a deep breath of air. “That was beautiful,” she exclaims.
I stare at her furtively. Did she say beautiful?
“That’s the way movies are supposed to be. Why can’t they make them more like that? Thank you, thank you.” Then Violet sits up straight and looks out the car’s window. “So, where are we going for dinner?”