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Ravi Mangla

In the opening minutes of the movie the projection stopped and the lights turned on. The theatre manager strode coolly to the front of the room, his shadow distended on the screen. Ramona looked at me and I took my arm off of her.

I’m sorry for you to have to hear it this way, but there’s been an invasion. One of the big countries has attacked one of the very little ones. There is genocide. Prisoners have been taken. Treaties and pacts have been broken. Bombs are sprinkling from planes, he said.

Which countries? someone yelled.

I don’t remember. I’ll go back and check, he said.

The movie continued. It was a romance, featuring two of the very best romantic actors. They didn’t like each other; the woman had just opened a Greek restaurant across from the man’s Italian restaurant. However, beneath their hostility, their angry words, there were undeniably romantic undertones.

The manager walked in front of the screen again, his body obstructing the left breast of the woman. He said the names of the countries, but we hadn’t heard of either of them; and anyway, we were trying to concentrate on the movie.

There was a sequence in which the man and the woman were having a discussion. She thought they were talking about sex, while he thought they were talking about fishing. It was all very funny. The manager returned. He slipped his index finger across his neck, and they cut the projector.

The Secretary of the Interior has been assassinated. I know this is upsetting news for many of you. Take a moment of silence for your thoughts, he said.

I inched closer to Ramona, working up the courage to hook my arm around her neck, pull her toward me, maybe kiss her on the cheek or forehead. But she opened her eyes and the movie started back up.

The man had just happened to find her “missing” cat. They were sitting on a street corner eating hot dogs, talking about their ex-lovers. For a while everything seemed to be going well. They even kissed, once, briefly. Then the woman’s Greek restaurant shut down because of the man’s Italian restaurant (planted rodents … called health inspector … not the man’s fault though) and she decided to move back to Boston and go to graduate school. During a chase sequence, in which the man had commandeered a van by flashing a movie rental card (very funny), and then been slapped by a sassy black woman and jeered at by the kids in the back, the manager revisited the theatre to tell us that the Secretary of the Interior was fine. The man shot had been a bank robber wearing a rubber mask of the Treasury Secretary, who looked a little like the Secretary of the Interior. It was actually a good thing he was shot. Everything was OK; the bank was safe.

The man drove frantically through traffic. The van tipped from side to side. He drove with one set of wheels on the sidewalk, and the pedestrians dived out of the way. He parked the car in the airport roundabout. A cop shouted at him, said he couldn’t park there, but he didn’t care. He ran through the security check. The guards who tried to catch him ended up swimming in marble fountains and bounding through glass storefronts. He was protected by love.

The manager came back. The projector paused and the lights turned on.

Don’t be alarmed, but we just found a family of rats burrowed at the bottom of the popcorn popper. Don’t be alarmed, but it’s probably best that you don’t eat the popcorn, he said.

Ramona was allergic to popcorn and I didn’t care for the stuff.

You know, my grandpa said they used to have newsreels at the beginning of movies, she whispered.

That’s weird, I said.

Yeah, but it’s better than being interrupted. This is plain rude.

He boarded the plane and revealed his love to the woman and they kissed. Walking out of the theatre into the warmth of the evening, Ramona let me put my arm around her. We were happy, because we knew they would be together forever.

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