Dear brown-haired woman,
I’m sorry for bothering you while we were watching Stand By Me at the movie theater on White Street in Red Bank, New Jersey.
We’d probably been bothering you for a while, actually, my friends and I. We’d probably been bothering most everybody in the theater that night, before you finally turned around and shushed us, as we only should have been shushed-and, if anything, more harshly. God, it must have sucked to have been around me and my friends back then. We were in high school, going into sophomore year, and always trying very hard to impress each other. Particularly impressive, or so we thought at the time, was a willingness to shock or annoy other people in the world. And to seem cool and tough while doing it. (I don’t pretend this made us much different from most other 15 year-old boys. But I also don’t want to offer that as an excuse today. In that sense, I guess I’m offering this apology on behalf of bothersome 15-year-old boys everywhere.)
It was at a particularly emotional part in the movie, right after River Phoenix breaks down and cries to Wil Wheaton while telling the story about how he’d stolen the milk money box at school, but tried to return it, only to have a teacher take it and buy herself a new dress-while he still took the blame. “I guess I’m just a pussy, huh?” Phoenix says. (And of course, he was by far the coolest and toughest of the four boys we watching in this coming-of-age wilderness adventure-he’d brought his father’s gun along and everything.) Wheaton comforts him with an arm around the shoulder.
The next scene opens with Wheaton sitting alone in the forest at dawn. A deer, a young doe, walks up and stands there, quivering but calm, not ten feet away. They make eye contact, Wheaton and the deer, and some profound message about life is imparted. This was when I said, loudly, so as to bother anyone who might have actually been enjoying the movie, and thus impress my friends: “Where’s that gun?!”
A dumb joke. And dishonest. (Like I was some big hunter guy. I was probably wearing two pastel polo shirts at the time, with both collars turned up. But that’s another apology for another time.) It successfully popped a silent moment, though, and my friends burst out laughing.
You turned around in your seat a couple aisles in front of us and hissed. I think you may have called me an asshole. Which, of course, made my friends laugh louder.
You were right. It’s pretty easy to shock and annoy people in the safe anonymity of a dark movie theater. (Of course, now we have the Internet.) Pretty easy to seem cool and tough while doing it-at least to your fellow 15-year-old friends. Thinking back now, nothing could have been less cool or less tough. Nothing more obviously put-on.
Stupid beautiful deer.
Previously: Dear Lexis/Nexis Onsite Training Executive
Dave Bry is The Awl’s Assistant Editor For Rap Music and Related Issues